NEVINS MEMORIAL LIBRARY
3 1548 00267 386 2
THE LIFE STORY OP EDWARD P. SEARLES
Compiled by Ray Fremmer
PROM THE UNABRIDGED HAND-WRITTEN MANUSCRIPT OP 1948
Preserved by Andrew »Angy* Ellison
Transcribed by Robert DeLage
Preface and Dedication
to the Abridged Version of 195>7
THIS IS A STORY OP THE REALIZATION OP A BOY'S DREAM
TO LIVE IN A BIG CASTLE INSTEAD OP DAYDREAMING ABOUT ONE.
WHEN I WAS A SMALL BOY I LIVED IN A TOWN
WHERE EMPTY OLD CASTLES STIRRED MY IMAGINATION
AND I STILL REMEMBER THINKING . . .
"WHY ARE THEY HERE? HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN HERE,
AND WHY IS THERE NOBODY INSIDE?"
MYSTERY AND AWE POR GRANDEUR PILLED MY MIND.
NOW I HAVE SOLVED THE MYSTERY,
BUT IN MY DREAMS I STILL STEALTHPULLY WALK THE CASTLES 1 GROUNDS
AND BRAVELY PEER INSIDE.
TO BOYHOOD, WITH ALL ITS ENTHUSIASM AND CURIOSITY
Digitized by the Internet Archive
Edward Francis Searles
San Franc isoo
The oldest section
of Pine Lodge
visible on the left
The Entrance Hall
The Living Hall
from old East Street
to Pine Lodge
at Pine Lodge
Top photo: The Great Banquet Hall - Appleside wing at Pine Lodge
Bottom Photo: The adjoining Tapestry Gallery and Organ
opposite Pine Lodge
The Red Tavern
Searles 1 Guest House
Searles High School
The Living Hall
The Dining Room
Mr. Searles and "Junior*
at Pine Lodge
E. F. Searles'
at Pine Lodge
The Tower and Chapel
at Pine Lodge
in the lower level
of the Chapel
Burning Towers Crest
" AN OLD CALIFORNIA GOLD MINE "
" AN OLD CALIFORNIA GOLD MINE "
Edward Francis (Frank) Searles was born in a small farm
house in Methuen, Massachusetts, on the Fourth of July, I8I4.I.
His parents left Nashua, New Hampshire, to come to Methuen so
the father, Jessie Gould Searles, could work in the cotton mill.
When Frank was three years old his father, sister, and younger
brother all died within six weeks during the summer, victims of
an awful epidemic. Mrs. Sarah Littlefield Searles, the mother,
was forced to mortgage the house and its six acres in order to
support herself, Frank, and his older brother Andy. In 1853,
when Frank was twelve, he too went to work in the cotton mill.
His formal education was terminated at that time. He did,
however, begin to take piano lessons with a Mrs. Fells of
In the next few years he also worked in a shoe factory and
in his uncled department store in the neighboring city of
Lawrence. All the while he was continuing with his piano lessons.
After studying the organ in Boston he began to earn his living by
giving piano lessons in Methuen, Lawrence, and nearby Salem, New
Hampshire. About this time, a pretty Irish girl by the name of
Catherine Linehan came to the Searles home to board and help Mrs.
Searles with the housekeeping. Both the Searles brothers, Frank,
age 19, and Andy, 21, became extremely fond of her. Then came the
Civil War. Andy enlisted in the Army and Frank went to Gardiner,
Maine, to teach music in order to support his mother. While
Andy was away, Prank became engaged to Catherine. However,
when Andy came home after the war, in the uniform of a major,
Catherine broke her engagement to Prank and married Andy.
To forget the loss of his sweetheart Prank decided to leave
Methuen. With the birth of the mill city of Lawrence in iQkl »
on land that was formerly part of Methuen, the little farming
town had changed practically overnight from one of farms to one
of mills. And Prank hated the mills. He went to Boston and
secured a job with Paul & Company, upolsterers and furniture
dealers. For the next twelve years, until he was thirty- three,
he sold furniture. Then, in 1875, Paul & Company went out of
business. Prank returned to Methuen with his savings and cancelled
the thirty year old mortgage on his mother's house. She then
deeded it over to him. The mortgage cancellation had cost him
$l,i^50. He immediately remortgaged the property for $3>500. The
difference between these figures illustrates the rise in the value
of real estate since the new mills doubled the population of the
town. In those days $3,500. was a lot of money. Frank Searles
went to Europe for six months.
After this little adventure, it was to New York, the city of
opportunity, and not Boston that Prank returned. There he found
a position with Herter Brothers, interior decorators, well known
for the work they were to do on the Vanderbilt mansions. He
remained with Herter Brothers until l88l when he had a long spell
of inflamatory rheumatism which put him on the flat of his back
- k -
for some time, Eis doctor told him he should spend his time out
west in order to recover. He decided to go to California to
regain his health and also make a few calls at the homes of certain
California millionaires who had employed Herter Brothers for
interior decorating. After securing a letter of introduction
from his former employer he went to San Francisco to present it to
Mrs. Mark Hopkins at her palatial Nob Hill mansion. She was a
fabulously wealthy widow whose husband had made a fortune pioneering
one of the West's first railroads.
So it was that in April, 1883, Prank Searles boldly knocked
at the front door of a gold mine and, wonder of wonders, it opened 1
Many years later, on recalling this day, Searles said, "I had
never met her before. I saw the servant; she said Mrs. Hopkins
never saw strangers except by appointment. I said I merely called
to see the house."
"The next day Mr. Timothy Hopkins (Mrs. Hopkins' adopted son)
called upon me, presented his card, and said that Mrs. Hopkins
would like me to dine with her at a family dinner. I objected;
they were all strangers to me. But Mr. Hopkins told me there was
no ceremony, and I went. I met Mrs. Hopkins. She was tall, quite
large, and strong, mentally and physically. I was told that if I
came the next morning I might see the house.
"I was in and about San Francisco four or five weeks. I called
on Mrs. Hopkins four times - once to see the house, once to dine
there, once to go to Menlo Park, and once to pay my dinner call.
I had no communication whatever with Mrs. Hopkins that summer. I
heard from Mrs. Timothy Hopkins in October, saying that Mrs. Hopkins
Senior was coming east to look after her affairs in Great Barrington,
Massachusetts, and asked me if I would assist her. I answered that
While assisting her in building a memorial to her husband in
Great Barrington, Prank Searles received a proposal of marriage
from the wealthy widow. She was sixty- three and he was forty-two;
she was older and he was handsome. But money, especially her
millions, gave her the courage to ask. Besides, she realized that
money is a fascinating lure. At first Searles seemed hesitant.
She was, after all, somewhat older than him; twenty-one years
older in fact. However, Searles seemed to slowly weaken.
" GREAT BARRINGTON AND MARRIAGE "
" GREAT BARRING TON AND MARRIAGE "
Late in the summer of 1881}., Mrs. Hopkins decided to build
the Great Barrington mansion in the Berkshire mountains of
Massachusetts. Searles recalled, "She said she would build
a house if I would do it for her. I said, 'Very well, I'll
do it.' She asked, 'For how much?' , I said, 'Ten percent.' n
The plans were prepared by architects McKira, Mead and White,
of New York, and the ground was broken in April, l88£. In May
Searles and a friend went to Europe to get suggestions and
information about the construction and furnishing of the mansion.
They returned to America two months later on the Fourth of July,
Searles' forty-fourth birthday. Mrs. Hopkins wrote her adopted
son, Timothy, that Searles was superintending the construction of
the house without compensation. Searles knew that she had arrived
at this decision but it didn't worry him. On reflecting how he
felt at the time, he later said, "I knew that I would be paid in
the end, somehow or other." This shows that he was, even then,
giving some thought to reimbursement for his arrangement with
During the next two and a half years, the building of the
mansion, and the relations between the retired interior decorator
and wealthy widow progressed smoothly. They travelled about the
country, to Florida and elsewhere, and attended various music
recitals. In 1887 they visited Block Island, off the coast of
Rhode Island, and liked it so well that they purchased some land
and later built a summer home there, Searles handeled all the
money and paid out over $900,000. for the building of the
Great Barrington mansion.
When he needed money he sent word to California, to Timothy,
who managed all his mother's business affairs. While assisting
in the choosing of the interior decorations for the mansion,
Searles sometimes lived there with Mrs. Hopkins for as long as
six months, and other times for only a few days. Early in October
of 1887 they decided to marry by mutual consent. The wedding took
place in Trinity Chapel, New York, on the morning of November 8,
1887. After journeying to Methuen, they returned to New York to
sail to Europe for a six month wedding trip. After returning from
the wedding trip, Searles busied himself by making alterations on
the little house he was born in at Methuen, and further decorating
the Great Barrington place. This mansion rests on a hillside
which slopes gently down to meet meadow land. It has a frontage
of one hundred and eighty feet and an average depth of one hundred
feet. Seven towers and numerous gables break the monotony of the
massive masonry of blue dolomite quarried across the river. Of the
forty rooms in the mansion, the most interesting is the library
which is finished in walnut; the Windsor Room, so called, because
its doors were brought from Windsor Castle. With the help of the
railroad wealth the Searleses were living a pleasant life building
castles on the ground rather than in the air. Until 1890 they
visited Europe every season, and divided their summers between
Methuen and Great Barrington.
In the fall of 1890 Mrs. Searles began to be bothered by
persisting attacks of the grippe. Before that she had hardly
been ill a day, and then it was only a slight cold. As winter
came on, Mrs. Morse, a Christian Scientist was summoned by
Mrs. Searles and she recovered temporarily. In May of 1891 she
again contracted the grippe and in July a Boston physician
suggested a change of climate and the Searleses travelled west.
They returned to Great Barrington shortly afterwards, however,
without the change having done her any good whatsoever.
About July fourteenth the attending physician informed
Searles that although his wife didn't appear to be very ill, her
condition was really serious. She was a strong woman and would
ordinarily have recovered from even a severe attack of the grippe
but her present illness was being complicated by heart trouble,
dropsy, and old age in general. As it was, it appeared that she
was the victim of a persistant bad cold. One day she would be
up and around; the next day she would have to remain in bed. A
week after learning of the seriousness of his wife's illness,
Searles went from Great Barrington to New York to procure the
private railway car they owned. He hoped that by bringing his
wife to Methuen in the private car she would be able to rest
comfortably and the change would do her good. When he returned
from New York with the car she was worse than when he left her.
Three or four days later, however, in Methuen, she felt well
enough to go for a short walk in the warm July air. Her strength
was remarkable. Three days later, at four o'clock in the morning
of July 25th, 1891, she made the slight change from deep sleep
to death. She had been married to the man who was twenty-one
years her junior less than four years when she passed away and
made him one of the richest men in the United States. The
California gold mine finally produced pay dirt.
- 11 -
" THE POWER AND THE KINGDOM "
- 12 -
" THE POWER AND THE KINGDOM "
Since his boyhood Searles had had ideas about changing the
physical appearance of his town. As he walked about Methuen in
his youth, a poor farm boy, he daydreamed of changing things to
his own liking. He would imagine how a certain tract of land
would look without the houses on it that were then there. He
would rearrange and replan whole districts as he would have them
if by some miracle he could own them. If he liked a particular
house and thought that all the others around it were drab and
ordinary looking, his dream plans had all the houses torn down
except the one he liked. In his more fantastic dreams he was
directing the assembling of big mansions out of the various small
houses that he liked. He was moving them into location so as to
form wings and gables to his own liking, and tearing down
everything else to make more room. In his most fantastic dreams
he dreamt about the castles he would build if he had unlimited
power. He dreamed he owned vast tracts of land.
When he began to earn big money as a result of the percentage
basis on which he was being paid for decorating the homes of the
wealthy in New York for Herter Brothers, he started to make what
improvements he could afford around the homestead in Methuen. At
first he realized only the most modest parts of the dreams he had
dreamt as a boy. When he came into greater wealth as a result of
his marriage, the greater became his desire to add wing after wing
to his little farm house. He also built the mansions he had
dreamed of building out of the various houses he liked. When
he came into unlimited wealth as a result of his wife's death,
he began to put into reality the most fantastic of his castle
building and land owning dreams. But to realize what a triumph
this was for him we must begin at the beginning.
When Searles was a young man in Methuen he made a choice;
rather than prepare himself for a position in the monotony of the
new machine age, he reasoned that the arts were more important and
went to Boston where he found a position with a furniture company.
It wasn't quite as artistic a position as he would have preferred
but the experience he acquired helped him later on when he applied
art to practical use in interior decorating. Back in Methuen, when
Searles made his choice, another youth just a year younger than he
also made his choice. His name was Charles Tenney and he chose
security in the monotonous yet prospering machine industries rather
than beauty and art.
When Tenney was twenty-three he married Miss Fanny Gleason,
daughter of a prominent Methuen hat manufacturer, and eventually
succeeded him in the firm. Soon after that he and an older
brother had their own hat factory and were amassing small fortunes.
By 1870 Tenney was buying real estate in the better residential
sections of town with the idea in mind of choosing the most
appealing section of it one day to build there a permanent family
home. In 1876 he began buying tracts of land very close to the
Searles homestead. And in March of 1880, when he purchased a
fifteen-acre tract immediately adjoining the Searles land, it
was obvious that this was the site he had chosen to form his
If this incident had not occured, no doubt Searles would
not have begun to buy up land when he did but rather would have
waited until he was more financially secure. As it was, he
realized that Tenney had stepped in and disturbed his plans for
acquiring all the land around the place where he was born. No
doubt Tenney 1 s presence on the scene was a strong incentive for
Searles to try all the harder to climb fortune f s ladder. He was,
perhaps, envious of Charles Tenney' s present cultural and financial
status. Searles determined to let it be known that he too intended
to enlarge his land holdings for the purpose of forming an estate.
In October of 1880, the same year that Tenney acquired the fifteen-
acre tract, Searles bought an acre of land adjoining the homestead,
cancelled the mortgage that had been on his place since he went to
Europe, and bought one other parcel of land. In 1883, after Tenney
sold out his share in the hat factory to his brother and was busy
in New York establishing a hat commission house, Searles managed
to buy two more parcels of land. Prom the location of these, across
the street from his own land, it is apparent that he was planning a
large scale expansion. This would infer that even at that early
date he had the idea in mind of buying the very streets of the town,
which he later did.
Then, after the purchase of these two parcels, he suddenly
stopped buying land. That same year, 1883, Mrs. Hopkins had
proposed marriage to him and although he didn't accept immediately,
he was so fascinated by the idea of marrying into that much
wealth that from then on, he may have needed all the income
from his savings to keep in step with her during various trips
to Florida and other places. By this time he had retired from
Herter Brothers and was relying solely on his savings.
In March, 1886, he found it necessary, once again, to take
out a mortgage on his home and land in Methuen. The seven
thousand dollars that he received on the seven acre tract carried
him over until November, 1887, when he married Mrs. Hopkins. In
1888, after his fortune was large enough so that he could have
bought up the whole town if he had had enough real estate agents,
he recommenced buying land. In that year he purchased seven
parcels of land, one or more of which bordered on the Tenney
property proving that Searles was finally giving him some
competition. By this time, however, Charles Tenney had bought up
all the most desirable land on top of the hill overlooking the
Searles place, and Searles had to satisfy himself with scattered
pieces near the bottom and within the town itself.
Although he later succeeded in getting the town f s permission
to reroute some streets so that he might enclose all of his
property within one wall, he could not very well have asked them
to sell him a main street which ran near his property. In 1888,
however, the town voted
"To give Mr. E. P. Searles the right to improve,
at his own expense, the roads and sidewalks opposite
his estate, to put in a drinking fountain on the square
opposite his residence, to improve the cemetery and
lands adjoining, belonging to the town, - - and such
other alterations as he may see fit for the improvement
of that part of the town."
He changed the appearance of the street and surrounding
territory from that of a country road to that type that is seen
in strictly residential districts. He was also successful in
preventing it from becoming a noisy thoroughfare. In July of
1889 the Lawrence Daily American, which obviously had a bone
to pick with Searles, ran the following article....
"It was enough to make the trees smile to read
that list of 'over a hundred names of prominent citizens
and businessmen' who protested against the laying of
horse car tracks through Lawrence Street. The list as
presented contained just 9^4- names, and of these 21 are
directly or indirectly in the employ of Millionaire
Searles, one was the paid counsel of Mr. Searles, and
of the others one half would be as ready today to sign
a petition on the other side - so much for that."
This was the beginning of the newspaper slander that was to
continue for many years. It served to increase Searles 1
dislike for the noisy mill city.
After he returned from his wedding trip to Europe, his
chief interest was obviously in the land that surrounded the
place where he was bora, the land in Methuen. With his wife's
wealth at his disposal, Searles proceeded to practically buy up
the town. At the rate he was buying property, if he had lived
the length of his life again he very possibly would have achieved
what might have been his goal - that of owning the entire village
in which he was born, the place he loved.
With very few exceptions his purchases of land radiated in
every direction with the old homestead as the center. As the
years went by and his holdings increased, his purchases stretched
farther and farther away from the original six acres. Between
1888 and the year of his death he transacted two hundred and
fifty-three different purchases of land around his home and
throughout Methuen. He commissioned five men to buy land for him
so that the persons from whom the purchases were being made wouldn't
know that it was for the millionaire, Searles, and boost their
prices accordingly. Any map of the town, published at the turn of
the century, which featured the name of the owner on each parcel
of land throughout the town, gives evidence as to the extent of
property which Searles owned. Although it is a gross exaggeration
to say that he owned the whole town, it is a fact that he owned a
good part of it. He owned so much of the town and was so well
known that the mapmakers simply put his initials, "E. P. S.", on
his property instead of his full name, as it was on all other
properties on the map.
In the autumn of 1889 he cancelled the mortgage he had taken
out in 1886, before his marriage. He was safely married now and
didn't mind his wife knowing that he hadn't always been wealthy.
In fact he wanted the whole town to know that he was at last
quite the wealthy man. In September of 1889 the Lawrence Daily
"For four long hours Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Millionaire
Searles permitted the public to gaze upon the beauties
of his private grounds, and it is said that about two
hundred persons availed themselves of the privilege
during that time . "
Although this notice in the neighboring city newspaper was not
half so biting as was most of their gossip about him - only
nicknaming him "Millionaire Searles", perhaps out of envy -
the following December they printed an article which really
laid it on heavy....
"Millionaire Searles again had a British flag
flying from his flag staff the first of the week. The
act is denounced by parties of all nationalities, and
is, to say the least, a discourteous one to the
n at i onal embl em • "
No doubt Searles was upset when he read this. The fact is that
he was truly pro British. We must remember that at this time
Britain was an extremely powerful empire and Searles' admiration
for the brain power that ran it was profound. He had been deeply
impressed by Queen Victoria and her court when he visited London
on his wedding trip. And later on he saved many newspaper articles
concerning the Queen for his huge scrapbook.
Prom the tone of the following excerpts, it quite likely was
envy that caused the writer on the Lawrence Daily American to
write as he did:
"Mrs. 'Mark Hopkins' Searles and her husband, of this
town, have gone to California where they will spend the
And later on,
"A special train chartered for the purpose of
bringing Millionaire Searles and wife to town, arrived
over the Boston and Maine railroad at eleven o'clock
By 1890 Searles was secure in the power of his wealth and
began to direct operations in his little kingdom. It was a
decade in which he was to begin to form his kingdom and feel the
power of his wealth. Near his mansion there was a large Baptist
Church painted a bright yellow. He volunteered to pay for its
painting, whenever it was needed, if he might paint it a color
of his own choosing. Prom then on the building was painted a
rich brown and was not so distracting an edifice as it was before,
so near his own estate.
In November of 1890 he bought, from John Tenney, one of
Charles Tenney 's brothers, the land and buildings adjoining the
Baptist Church property and informed the pastor that he was going
to build a rectory for him. He had three of the houses on the
property moved together and proceeded to have his men remodel
them into a fine house, much like the ones he had dreamt of
building as a youth. The plumber was installing a stove in the
finished building one day, when the pastor came in and remarked
that the stove was hardly a proper model for a rectory. The
plumber answered that he was only following orders, and that he
had better see Mr. Searles. The next day Searles told the plumber
to lock up the house and bring the keys down to him the next
- 20 -
morning. The deal was off; the church received no rectory.
That is the way things went. If the benefactors were the least
bit uncautious before they were legally in possession, they
never acquired the gift.
Searles secured the electrical power for his estate from
dynamos situated in an old woolen mill which he had bought in
1889. This mill was several hundred yards away from his mansion
and he was compelled to either buy up the land in between or
secure rights from the owners to set poles and string wires across
their property. He preferred to own the land in order that he
need depend on no one. This was the first time that he tried to
buy up a continuous stretch of land and he met with difficulty
then as he was to meet it several times afterwards in similar
circumstances. Some people wouldn't sell merely because they
knew someone else really wanted something they owned; or the land
had been in the possession of the same family for generations and
the owners wouldn't sell under any conditions. And others,
learning that it was Searles who wanted their land, set their
prices so high that he had to refuse to buy as a matter of self
respect. Even with these difficulties he bought up so much land
that by 1891 he was paying nine hundred percent higher taxes than
anyone else in town, with the exception of the two largest mills.
In October of 1891, three months after Searles' wife died, he
invited the Boston Pusileer Veterans to come to Methuen to marvel
at the beauties of his estate. They took the electric cars from
Lawrence to Methuen and assembled there to march to the estate
where they were permitted to tour the grounds. Nothing delighted
Searles so much as to bewilder people with his personal landscaped
paradise. Later in the day the veterans were banqueted by Searles
in the town hall. There he was given three rousing cheers, elected
an honorary member, and presented with an oak-framed photograph of
the company. He responded pleasantly, expressing his pleasure
for the gift and saying that Methuen was honored by their visit.
Frank Searles himself had become the wealthiest, most honored and
respected citizen in town. He had changed from a farmboy to a
millionaire; and his land had changed from a farm to a millionaire ' i
The trial in which an unsuccessful attempt was made to break
his wife f s will began in the same month as the Boston Veterans 1
visit, and was settled out of court in March of the next year,
1892. He then traveled for a year and a half. When he returned
to Methuen, at the end of that time, his chief interest was still
in expanding his estate.
Although Charles Tenney's Carrere & Hastings-designed French
chateau had been completed for a year, the family was only
spending summers there since Mr. Tenney^ business kept him in
New York, and his wife preferred the city to the monotony of the
country town. The chateau, called Grey Court, was a beautiful
addition to the country landscape. Its delicate lines on the top
of a high hill overlook the Searles mansion, towers, walls, rolling
green meadow, and the town beyond. Seen from outside the wall-
enclosed meadow, it seemed like a grand old monarch guarding the
tournament field below.
With Tenney in New York most of the time, the land buying
competition dropped off to nothing. In September, 1893, the
New Yorker even conceeded to sell Searles a long strip of land
and the house on it, adjacent to his meadow, providing that he
could retain a right-of-way into the meadow. Searles had always
wanted this property but he especially wanted it now as a site
for the monument of George Washington which he had commissioned
Thomas Ball to sculpt. Later, however, he changed his mind and
chose a different site for the monument,
Searles was in the habit of clipping newspaper articles on
people or things with whom he was acquainted. For example,
Daniel Chester French, the great sculptor who had studied under
Thomas Ball and who had once visited his Great Barrington mansion.
Thereafter Searles saved every article he came across dealing
with Mr. French, Possibly through Truette, the organist who had
studied under Guilmant, Searles became acquainted with the famed
French composer, and for some unknown reason sent him a picture
of his mansion. Guilmant kindly wrote back thanking him for it -
in FrenchJ Searles pasted the thank-you note in his scrapbook
with a firm hand. When the New York newspapers ran a story, with
his picture, to mark his appointment as a Director of the Southern
Pacific Railroad, he was in his glory. That too was pasted into
the scrapbook. In all the clipped articles his name was underlined
in blue crayon.
Searles was aware that his plans and actions added to his
prestige. In England, while on his wedding trip, he had a
picture taken of himself wearing the court dress he had worn
when presented to Queen Victoria, He had a copy framed to hang
in his mansion. In London he engaged a company of professional
genealogists to look up the Searles lineage. It is interesting
to know the history of one»s family but it is not every man who
can afford it.
Searles instructed the company to send him a copy of each
book to which they referred in compiling his genealogy, that he
might add them to his library. All these books had markers at
the pages where the Searles name was mentioned and formed, no
doubt, an important part of his library. He donated a copy of
the finished genealogy to the Boston Public Library. It is a
handsome, fifteen-inch square, leather bound book with many
illustrations of famous English cathedrals and towns to add
importance to the dry genealogical facts. Although the
genealogists found no royal blood, there was one Daniel Searle
who was Governor of Barbados in the middle of the seventeenth
century. Prom the size of the book, and the elegance of its
printing, the English lineage company must have sent Searles
quite a large bill. They even included the Searles coat of arms
consisting of a half -embossed shield design. This half-shield
was given to all knights, in the days of yore, who had not yet
performed a notable deed. After such a deed had been accomplished,
the unembossed half of the shield was engraved with an appropriate
design to represent the deed. Searles had this half-shield design
put into stone for his mantlepiece, into wood for his paneling,
and into metal for his wrought-iron gates.
Because of the prestige his wealth gave him the majority of
the townspeople, and some of his employees, were awed by Searles 1
position and the power this wealth gave to him. Still, there
remained those in town who regularly had business with him who
felt at ease in his presence. For instance, Joseph Howe, the
town treasurer and tax collector, was often visited by Searles
for advice about legal matters and gifts to the town. Another
was George Wilson, the man in charge of Searles' house moving
operations. The old Park Street schoolhouse, where Searles went
to school with Arthur Gage, George Wilson, and Johnny Gross, was
moved from the corner of Park and Lawrence Streets to a lot several
hundred feet farther down Park Street. It stood there until about
1900 when Searles bought it and had it torn down. George Wilson,
who became the house mover for Searles, claimed that he and Searles
were not only classmates but very good friends. He said that the
boys, back about l8£0 or 1855, wouldn't play with Prank Searles
and that he told them that if they would not let Prank go along
with them he would not go either. Obviously, Searles had one
good friend in the crowd.
Another man in town, who also seems to have known Searles
from way back, was the town drunk. Whenever he saw Searles he
would habitually yell, "Hi Frank!" , in a boisterous, boozy tone,
Searles always smiled and returned the greeting - far from the
aloof personage the Lawrence newspapers claimed him to be.
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" PINE LODGE AND THE GREAT ORGAN "
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" PINE LODGE AND THE GREAT ORGAN "
Throughout America, as the factories spread and the
railroads covered more and more territory, their owners were
making incredible fortunes. It was a materialistic world and
the highest virtue was to be the most clever in the competitive
game of machine manufacturing. The newly rich could elevate
their position in society by displaying awesome evidence of
their worldly wealth. Thus, after having amassed their fortunes,
they competed with one another in spending great sums to maintain
their social positions. European trips, fancy horses, motor cars
and yachts partly solved their problem but by the time the ^O's
rolled around, what really counted was the degree of magnificence
and amount of floor space of the mansions in which they lived.
While each country of Europe had a definite style of its own, the
American millionaires sought to prove their eligibility to
membership in the upper class by copying all of them at once. The
results were, quite often, fantastic. Architectural crimes or not,
the wealthy Americans were proud to live in their castles and
mansions and found people eager to staff them from the swarms of
immigrants pouring into the country from England, Ireland, and the
Continent. Searles fell into step with his wealthy fellow-countrymen
by changing the little family farm house into a fantastic, rambling
mansion. As early as l88l, even before he retired from Herter
Brothers, he had begun remodeling and enlarging the farm house;
but it wasn't until after his marriage, in 1887, that he began
to completely remodel it in the Greek Revival style.
When Greece was waging a desperate struggle for freedom
against the Turks early in the nineteenth century, sympathy for
her here in America ran so high that towns throughout the country
began adopting Greek names like Athens, Syracuse, Sparta and Troy.
Houses all the way from Massachusetts to Florida began to resemble
temples of the gods, creating a style that was popular until the
middle of the century, and even later with some people such as
Searles. The results of this craze for the classic in architecture
was termed the Greek Revival. The liberties which American
carpenters took with the Greek details produced an effect half
functional, half Greek, but more importantly, gave many American
homes an air of clean perfection and dignity.
Searles 1 additions to Pine Lodge, as he had named the farmhouse,
occurred annually and sometimes semi-annually, always in the Greek
Revival style, throughout the remainder of his life. It wasn't
long before one wing had all the gables and porticoes it could
hold, and then another wing would be added. Walls were pushed out,
rooms added, and columned porticoes added to them. Then the portico
would be enveloped by more rooms and a new one would have to be
built. In this process the old well, that was once in the front of
the house, was caught in a room of a new wing and became, perhaps,
the first indoor well in town. Searles was perhaps happiest when
he was planning these additions than he was at any other time in
his life. He would often stop reading in the middle of a book
and sketch, on the end pages, an idea for a new addition just
as it came to him while he was half reading, half dreaming of
his architectural fantasy. He then showed his sketch to his
architect, Henry Vaughan of Boston, told him just what he wanted,
and plans for another addition would be drawn up.
Some distance to the rear of Pine Lodge there was a very
tall, skeleton-framed structure supporting a windmill which drew
water from a spring for use in the mansion. As the mansion's new
additions became more elaborate and moved closer towards this
windmill structure, Searles had the frame enclosed making it into
a five story Greek Revival tower to match the style of the growing
mansion. It was truly a beautiful windmill.
The townspeople were quick to call Prank Searles eccentric.
Envious of his good fortune, they took advantage of the slightest
excuse to ridicule his building projects. True, his estate did
look rather strange with its high, classic windmill tower showing
in the distance between monolithic, bronze tripod-topped columns
and with Greek statuary on the lawns and on top of the mansion
itself, but it was no stranger than the account of his fortune.
If there was one thing Searles knew well from experience, it
was period furniture. As a furniture salesman for Paul and Company
of Boston, and interior decorator for Herter Brothers in New York,
he became well acquainted with antiques of the Italian, French, and
English periods, and particularly enjoyed selecting and buying them
during his frequent trips through Europe. As a poor man collects
tin Wilkie buttons and makes a card on which to display them, so a
wealthy man collects sets of antique furniture of a particular
period and builds rooms in the same period style in which to
display them. This furniture collecting hobby naturally requires
the building of room after room as the collection grows. And that
is probably the main reason that the mansions of wealthy Americans,
at the turn of the century when collecting was the fad, were such
rambling architectural curiosities. They were simply an integral
part of a very expensive hobby. Especially considering Prank
Searles 1 background and interests in fine furnishings, this hobby
was, even more likely than in most cases, responsible for the
sprawling seventy-four room mansion that he built.
With the wealth he had to back him up, he toured Prance,
England, and Italy searching for pieces to suit his fancy and buying
whatever he liked. He seems to have particularly liked French
furniture of the Louis XV period. Without doubt, the line of design
in this style is much more graceful and flowing than the rather
stiff style of the Italian and English. And furniture was not all
he collected. He sent back to America shipment after shipment of
statuary, vases, relief carvings, tapestries, mirrors, paintings,
armor, fine chinaware, and countless knick-knacks to supplement
his collection of period furniture.
While in England he purchased a tortoise shell, mother of pearl
inlaid chest from a direct descendant of Lord Methuen, the namesake
of his hometown in Massachusetts. In Prance he acquired some of
the original tapestry of "The Field of the Cloth of Gold", which
dates back to l£20 when Henry VIII of England conferred with
Francis I of Prance in the town of Guisnes, Prance. These richly
adorned tapestries were especially woven for that occasion. They
depict scenes from the life of Scipio Africanus and, until Searles
purchased them, had never been out of the possession of the French
royal Mazarin family. There he also obtained a marble fireplace
from the Tuileries, and a painting, "The Coronation of Napoleon."
He engaged Irving and Casson - Interior Decorators of Boston
to do the interiors of the rooms in which he placed his period
furniture. Each room had to be done in the same period style as
the furniture and required clever craftsmen. A Mr. Lewis Brown,
who is still with the Boston company, remembers Searles' frequent
visits to the Newbury Street establishment to purchase and select
various materials to decorate his rooms. Searles was particularly
fond of velours of different shades which he used to cover the
walls of his rooms. Mr. Brown recalls pointing out to Searles
that his practice of putting newspapers on the walls underneath
the velour, to protect it from moths, was needless since moths
have a distinct dislike for the velour. Searles, however,
continued to use newspapers. Mr. Brown remembers Searles as one
of that type of immaculately-dressed, distinguished persons whom
it would be highly improper to imform that he was doing something
in the wrong way.
After surveying Searles' rambling mansion and its miscellaneous
art contents, we can make one deduction: he was intelligent enough
to have an active collector's interest in beautiful things but he
did not set his standards for perfect beauty as high as his vast
wealth made it possible for him to set them. As a result, he was
able to collect a good deal more material than he would have if his
standards had been higher. It follows that since he collected more
material than he should have, he also had to build a larger
mansion to house it than he should have. So he created a
curiosity, not a collection of art befitting his wealth.
It would be an injustice to leave our study of Searles'
ability as an aesthetic connoisseur at this point when he is not
shown in a very favorable light. In later years he may have
realized that his mansion was a confusion of wings and gables
lacking the simplicity of beauty, and moved out of it to live in
a beautiful, English country style, manor house which he built
nearby. Even then he could not bring himself to destroy the old
mansion, but rather kept it as a curiosity full of curiosities.
But that will be described in another chapter.
A good idea of the type of life Searles lived may be seen by
examining the important events in his life during one year. In
1895* for example, we learn from various sources what he was doing
during different months of the year. Prom the diaries of Charles
Mann, Sr., the town's water commissioner and also a general
contractor, we know that in March, l895> Mr. and Mrs. Mann were
among fifty guests who were invited to Pine Lodge on Searles'
"at home" day. Mr. Mann wrote in his diary that on that occasion
Searles said, "There is nothing too good for Howe Street." No
doubt he was referring to what he had done to beautify Marston's
Corner, an intersection on Howe Street facing Charles Mann's farm.
He had purchased land there, planted trees, erected a monument to
the ancient blacksmith after whom the corner was named, and then
deeded it to the town. Beautifying various locations about the
town which appealed to him was one of Searles 1 favorite pastimes.
The following month, Mr. Mann and his wife again visited Searles
after church one Sunday and he entertained them in the music room.
No doubt that this was a memorable occasion for them - being
entertained by the wealthiest and most dignified man in town.
In the next month, May, Mr. Mann wrote in his diary of a walk he,
Searles, and his favorite organist, Bverette Truette, had taken
across the fields to visit Joseph Howe, the town clerk, tax collector
and treasurer. Such were the things that occupied Searles' time.
To break the small town monotony, however, Searles frequently
visited Great Barrington or New York. A Great Barrington newspaper
clipping, from Searles 1 scrapbook, tells us that in August of l89£
about a hundred invited guests assembled in the large music room
at Searles 1 mansion, Kellogg Terrace, to listen to an organ concert
by Professor Henry Dunham of the Boston Conservatory of Music, and
Everette E. Truette of Boston.
"It was a most charming musicale and a memorable
event in the summer life of Southern Berkshire."
After l89£, Searles rarely visited the Great Barrington mansion
and later began removing its paintings, organ, collection of musical
instruments, furniture, grand staircase railings, and the carved
doors from Windsor Castle - which he had purchased in 188A4. - to his
Methuen and Windham estates, as he became absorbed in his future
building plans. He also brought all the hired help to Methuen to
work for him there rather than dismiss them. They were Arthur Brown,
a cockney, who served as Searles' valet; Mr. Bell, his secretary who
lived in Boston and went home weekends; and Walter Jones, who served
as general handyman*
Trips to New York and Great Barrington, beautifying districts
of the town that appealed to him, and holding "at home" days are
the major events in Searles' life in this typical year of 1895.
They are obviously commonplace events hardly in harmony with his
uncommon fortune. In November of 1895, however, an event occurred
which is by far the most interesting of all of them. The "Methuen
Transcript", the town's only newspaper, announced in its Thanksgiving
Day issue, with a four-page supplement of photographs and editorials,
that it was using fine new type, that from then on the paper would
be much more devoted to news of local interest than it had been,
that the presses and offices were functioning smoothly in their new
quarters on Broadway, and that they would be open for the public's
inspection during the following week. The announcement did not
mention that Searles had bought the building four years before this
time, remodeled it into a newspaper plant, and organized the new
company, all for the purpose of counteracting the uncomplimentory
articles that were being directed towards him in the newspapers of
the neighboring city of Lawrence.
In 1891 he bought the building from the Methuen Cotton Company
where he had worked as a boy. He then arranged with Charles Barnard,
who had a job printing office in town, to act as editor, and Edwin
Castle, who ran a drug store and grocery, to act as treasurer.
Castle was already indebted to Searles for his helping to finance
both of his businesses. In return he served as Searles 1 mouthpiece
whenever discussions came up in town meeting concerning Searles'
beautifying projects about the town.
Barnard lost no time before writing editorials of a highly
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complimentory nature about his boss. The following was taken
from Searles 1 scrapbook of newspaper clippings:
"Most men apprehend the fact that as citizens,
they owe certain duties to the town they live in, to
the state, and to the nation. They pay their taxes and
expect to pay them. It cannot be said that they always
do this willingly or honestly, but they know that they
must pay something for the laws that protect them, for
the roads that give them passage across the country, and
for the support of the government.
"So far so good, but there is something very essential
beyond this. A great majority of the public fail to
appreciate the fact that membership in a social community
involves duties just as really and distinctly as family
ties or citizenship. Every man owes certain things to
the community in which he lives. There is no wise scheme
of town improvement to which he does not owe his support
and encouragement. There is field for improvement in
this respect right here in Methuen. Too many people
content themselves with watching and criticizing the
larger works of the limited few, forgetting all the while
that there are plain duties of a very simple nature to
which they ought to be giving, their attention. To our
knowledge a great many spruce trees were cut down in
different sections of the town, at Christmas time* The
same work of vandalism goes on through the year.
"Several of the pretty woodlands owned by Mr. E. P.
Searles, have for years suffered from vandal hands.
Many beautiful specimens have been cut down and others
ruined. On Lawrence Street persons have even reached
over the fence to clip branches from the trees. Mr.
Searles has given the town some 1^00 trees to beautify
our roadsides, besides buying prettily wooded spots
simply to protect them from destruction. Naturally
enough he does not appreciate this sort of treatment
and abuse of a good work in the interests of the town.
"It is said that if this and other forms of
lawlessness are not ended that he proposes to adopt
vigorous means to protect his vast estate upon which he
has expended so much money and labor in the effort to
beautify it, all of which has in a measure rebounded to
the benefit of the town. It seems certain that somebody f s
lawless and ill-trained boys will get into very hot water
if the parents cannot arouse themselves to the need of
"It is all very well to ask wealthy and liberal
citizens to expend money and energy in the improvement
and beautifying of the town, but the public owe it to
themselves and the donors to see that such good works are
appreciated and merited, especially when this means simply
giving protection to that which has already been done.
Those who have the responsibilities for the training of
the young have a duty in this direction to perform, and
there are signs of much laxity."
And another Barnard editorial:
"The Methuen Organ Works, on Broadway, has been
the subject of many comments and inquiries as to the
business there conducted. To the outsider, it is true,
there are few indications of a 'hustling' business.
This place has not the general appearance of the
ordinary factory, and is devoid of the smoke, dirt and
disagreeable odors which so often surround such work shops.
"The impressing classical facade gives no suggestion
of the ordinary manufacturing establishment; and as this
business has no local dependency, it does not become
necessary to advertise by glaring sign boards. It has
been proven to the writer by a visit, that there is
conducted at this establishment a business of high
artistic order and also of a large extent.
"Methuen people ought to feel pleased that such a
business is located here. Through its exquisite work
this concern has added much lustre to the honored name
of the town."
Searles bought the building, in which the organ factory was
located, in 1889, a year after his marriage. Situated beside the
town's old mill pond, it was originally built as a woolen mill and
used a water wheel for power. At first Searles used it to house
his United States Tubular Bell Company, which furnished chimes for
the bell tower at Pine Lodge. In 1892 he engaged James Treat, an
intelligent Boston organ builder, to build organs for him in the
Methuen factory. One John Ingraham, who was very friendly
with Searles, acted as foreman. The year that the Boston Symphony
Hall was being readied for the public, Searles and Ingraham
stopped in to view the new organ that was being installed by
Ernest Skinner, builder of many fine instruments and now residing
in Brookline, Massachusetts. Mr. Skinner describes Searles, when
they were introduced, as tall, well dressed and wearing a light
brown moustache. He also states that Treat built about fourteen
organs in the Methuen factory. Searles gave most of them to
The organ factory building was a very interesting structure.
To begin with, its cellar beams were made from logs which had been
cut only on two sides, the other two being left with the bark still
clinging. Sach jointed timber from cellar to attic was neatly and
painstakingly pegged with long wooden pegs. Huge eight by twelve
timbers braced from various angles by other heavy beams supported
three stories and a large attic. During its ownership by Searles,
a two-story portico supported by four large wooden columns, another
two-story wing, the bottom floor of which contained an arched
underpass for a driveway, and an elaborate interior stairway were
all added. He also built, by tearing through the first and second
floors, a heavily decorated organ test-hall, the ceiling cupola of
which protruded up through the attic. The attic of the building,
as a result of the many alterations, had become a maze of rooms and
stairways leading to attics and rooms in lower adjoining wings.
Prom the street, the building, which had been painted dark
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grey, looked like a deserted opera house. Because large, old
trees surrounded the building, it appeared to be in a half-light
even in the daytime.
Through Searles' venture into the organ building business
he naturally came into contact with many different church groups.
Although he pretended that this was a business venture, it really
was only the medium by which he continued to practice interior
decorating. This is proven by the fact that it was his practice,
after having secured the option for building an organ, to proceed
to completely remodel the interior of the church or even to build
a new one at his own expense. He built new churches for five
different church groups.
Searles saved the newspaper notices of the recitals of the
organs which he donated to various local churches. He evidently
was pleased that the organs were being put to good use. There
follows one of editor Barnard's Methuen Transcript accounts of
a recital held in the factory's elaborate testing hall on an
organ which was to go to St. Paul's church in Lawrence:
"At the conclusion of the exhibition of the new organ,
the party was priviledged to make a tour of inspection
through the adjoining rooms, including 'Sawgrist Hall',
where a magnificent organ has been erected for private use.
Considerable time was thus spent in viewing the collection
of old and rare instruments, beautiful tapestries and
paintings, richly carved antique furniture and many other
works of art.
"When this company was organized it was the
intention of the parties interested to establish a
business of high order. The success of the concern
has been due in a large degree to the deep interest
of the principal member of the company whose main
object has been to attain perfection in organ building,
rather than to realize large profits on the work
undertaken. It has been conceeded by eminent organists
of this country that one of the large organs built by
this company, as a memorial, is without exception the
finest in the world."
James Treat, John Ingraham, David Bruce, Dan Cogswell, Eben
Sawyer and George Whiting all worked for Searles in the organ
factory and boarded nearby at the Park Street Boarding House
which was operated by Arthur Gage who went to school with Searles.
The Methuen Organ Company, under the direction of James Treat,
built the organ which Searles presented to the Grace Episcopal
Church of San Francisco. As many invitations were sent out to the
people of Methuen and Lawrence as the factory's hall would
accomodate to be present at the recital to test the organ previous
to shipment. Mr. Everette E. Truette of Boston played for the
greater part of the recital. The stained native oak of this organ
was beautifully worked and the architectural design was by Henry
Vaughan, Searles 1 own architect. After the testing, Mr. Treat
accompanied the instrument to California to supervise its erection.
Its estimated cost was $£0,000. it was eventually lost in the
fire and earthquake of 1906.
Searles clipped a newspaper article, for his scrapbook,
describing a huge old organ that was going to be sold at auction
in Boston. The organ's mechanism was built in Germany in 1863
and the case was carved and assembled in New York by Herter
Brothers, the decorating company for whom Searles had worked.
It had stood in the Boston Music Hall for twenty years and then
was sold to make room for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It
remained in storage until 1897 when Searles bought it at auction.
According to an article Mr. Treat wrote for a Boston paper at the
time of the auction, the interior mechanism was obsolete and
worthless. Between 1905 and 1909 Searles had the works removed
in his factory and installed new electrical devices. It is
probably the only organ in existence which had a hall especially
built to house it. In most cases the organ is merely a furnishing
for the hall.
The magnificently carved case dominates the entire hall so
that one hardly notices the exquisite ceiling - rather only the
dark, overdecorated organ case. The atlantes, at either side of
the console, are the distinguishing features of this organ case.
They are accentuated carvings of masculine strength at supreme
perfection. Like each blast of the organ, each muscle in the
upper portions of these male torsos is full and has the perfection
that is part of mature development. They are collosal pillars of
power supporting a gigantic burden. Each muscle of the chest,
abdomen, and arms, below the massive yet finely modeled face, is
tensed to the tremendous weight each is bearing. They are
enormous yet perfect. As a seperate feature, their perfection
would seem incredible but as an integral part of the case they
are the keys to the strength of the complete organ.
Recently, after the building had been shut up for years,
a friend and I, at the age when boys don't realize the penalties
to be experienced for entering private property, skipped school
one day and cautiously climbed into what to us was a deserted
medieval palace. Sawdust, woodshavings, and spiderwebs covered
more prize trash than we had ever before seen. We were in ecstasy
over the fortune of junk within our grasp. We found old calendars
on the walls, amazing little parts of organs, a pair of old
spectacles, a board made of many different kinds of wood advertising
organ casements, busts of Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven in the organ
testing room, an old bellows used to melt the lead for the organ
pipes, three murals painted on wood so worm eaten as to make them
seem six hundred years old, hundreds of organ pipes that made deep
and high sounds when we blew into them, a funny old hat with a pin
on it that read "1909", and a million and one other things,
worthless to many, treasured by small boys. In the attic we were
frightened by the dark corners and the startled pigeons, yet we
dared to explore every room and the contents of each mysterious box.
We looked down on the street from a high attic window and wondered
if anyone would discoved us in our castle of musty halls and
treasure laden rooms. For many days we steal thfully visited our
child's wonderland, each visit more exciting than the last. Then,
one night as I lay in my bed dreaming of finding things which only
a small boy's mind could conceive, I restlessly turned onto my left
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side facing the window and vaguely noticed a distinct red glow
in the eastern sky, I quickly dressed and ran to where I could
look across the river into a miniature valley where the building
stood, now a gigantic mass of flames and falling timbers. Thus
the fate was sealed for one of the town's old buildings and the
basis of more than one of my imaginative dreams.
On the wall of the especially-built organ hall Searles
placed a six foot by twelve foot relief-carving, in Carrara marble,
of "The Aurora" by Guido Reni. "The Aurora" is that well known
scene which depicts the herald of the dawn by the familiar figure
in a horse drawn chariot riding over the clouds with angels above.
The owners of the Pitti Palace, in Florence, Italy, gave their
permission for Searles to have this relief carving copied. It was
finished by Carlo Nicoli in 1897.
It will be remembered that in 1889 Searles commissioned
Thomas Ball, the American sculptor who had his studio in Florence,
Italy, to do a heroic sized statue of George Washington. Searles
immediately began buying house lots across the street from his
mansion, and had the houses torn down or moved to make space large
enough to accomodate the monument. After Mr. Ball had the bronze
figures for the monument cast in Munich it was shipped to this
country and delivered at Chicago where Searles permitted it to be
displayed for the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. After remaining
in Chicago for five years it was brought to Methuen to be assembled
at its final resting place. On February 21, 1900 Searles prepared
to have the statue's temporary wooden housing dismantled in the
night in order to surprise the townspeople on the next day,
Washington's Birthday. Workmen with heavy draft horses were
told to report to the site after dark and say nothing to anybody.
They came in a terrible downpour of rain and worked all night
taking down the heavy wooden structure which had hidden the
monument for over a year. The next morning the people of
Methuen saw a monument worthy of a position in any park in any
of the largest cities in the country.
Mr. Ball resided in Florence, Italy for thirty years, the
last seven of which were engaged in executing the statue of
Washington. He was a native of Boston, where several of his works
may be seen, notably, his bronze figures of Charles Sumner and
Josiah Quincy, his marble statue of John Andrew, and his equestrian
statue of Washington. He is represented in New York's Central
Park by his colossal bronze of Webster. Washington, D. C. has
his "Lincoln Freeing the Slave." P. T. Barnum sat before him
for the bronze figure of the circus man which is in Bridgeport,
"The figure of Washington," said Mr. Ball speaking of the
Methuen monument, "is alone fifteen feet high. The Father of
His Country is shown with his military cloak wrapped around him,
his left hand on his sword, and his right extended over a female
figure representing Opression - young Columbia, fettered. Around
the monument are three companion figures" - one at each corner -
"Revolution, an almost mude male, bearing a drawn sword; Victory,
a female, with a wreath in one hand and branches of palm and oak
in the other; and lastly, Cincinnatus, seated on his plough, as a
suggestive supplement. Between these emblamatic figures and that
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of Washington" - in niches cut into the main shaft - "are busts
of four of his favorite generals, Lafayette, Lincoln, Knox and
Green. All the figures are of bronze; the column itself is of
This work of Mr. Ball is distinguished from the works of
other sculptors by the fact that although it is sixty feet tall
and has figures of immense proportions, it is executed in its
entirely with a careful regard for detail.
The monoliths adorning the western tip of the Searles estate,
across the street from the monument, were originally set up in
1838 on Wall Street, New York, in front of the Bank of America.
The pure bronze tripods surmounting these pillars are accurate
Greek reproductions. The pillars are of Quincy granite and stand
fifty feet high.
On March 10, 1900, at the Methuen Town Meeting, Mr. Emerson
offered the following resolution which was adopted unanimously
by a rising vote:
"Whereas our townsman Edward P. Searles has erected
near the center of the village a monument of rare and
majestic beauty, and whereas this monument both by its
historical interest and artistic execution will give
distinction to the town so long as marble and bronze
endure, be it resolved by the citizens of Methuen that
we express to Mr. Searles our great appreciation of the
Washington monument by Thomas Ball, and a deep sense of
gratitude for its noble and refining influence."
In 1899 Searles went to New York, as one of the newly
elected board of directors of the Southern Pacific Railroad,
replacing Thomas E. Stillman the New York lawyer who had arranged
the Searles-Hopkins marriage agreement of 188?. Stillman had
been a director representing, in conjunction with General Thomas
H. Hubbard, the interests of B. P. Searles ever since the latter
acquired possession of Southern Pacific stock through the death
of his wife, formerly Mrs. Mark Hopkins. The following newspaper
article from Searles 1 scrapbook explains what happened:
"When B. P. Searles found himself a fourth-owner in
the Southern Pacific Company he was without any experience
in railroad matters and felt it necessary to secure the
advice and services of gentlemen who were qualified and
able to look after his railroad interests. General Hubbard
and Mr. Stillman were law partners at that time, and he
selected them for the responsible trust. A partnership
arrangement was entered into, the Southern Pacific stock
being apportioned among the three men, with the understanding
that Searles was to be relieved of all work in connection
with the railroad corporation's business. When Mr. Stillman
decided to withdraw from the directorate, this partnership
Searles kept a rather complete scrapbook of everything in the
New York newspapers concerning the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Although he was unwilling to devote his full attention to big
business,, it is evident from the scrapbook that he was at least
attempting to keep informed.
While riding about the countryside in Methuen and across
the state line in Salem, New Hampshire, during the pleasant
New England summer months, Searles often saw charming little farms,
as has everyone who has ever ridden in the country. Likewise,
those who take country drives regularly have become more particular
as to just what type of farm meets their standards of "charming."
Some insist upon a long, sloping-roofed farmhouse on top of a
grassy knoll surrounded by old knarled oaks. Others hope to see
an old pump on the well in front of the farmhouse with a mammoth
red barn adjoining, and graceful hundred year-old elms in the
pastures. It is simply a matter of choice. The most thoughtful
country tourist looks at an "almost charming" bit of landscape and
daydreams about what he would do to it to make it really "perfectly
charming." Then the pretty spot passes out of sight and the dream
is forgotten. Unlike most people, however, Searles enjoyed the
uncommon pleasure of being wealthy enough to be able to buy outright
any charming country farm he happened to notice and then make the
changes that he thought needed to be made. If he really liked the
landscape that he saw from his neat black carriage, and if the owner
would sell, he could actually buy it and as many others as appealed
to him. To the type of Yankee, land-loving man that Searles was,
this ability to purchase, change, and enjoy was nothing short of
the miraculous fulfillment of an incredible lifelong wish.
He had, by this time, purchased all the land surrounding the
western slope of the hill from which the Tenney castle looked down
upon his mansion, and about two hundred acres on the other side of
the hill. Thus, the Tenney estate formed a barrier across the top
of the hill separating the eastern from the western halves of his
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estate and he had to take one or the other of the public roads
that ran on either side of the hill to get to his land on the
other side of this hill. This was a great pity to Searles since
he was striving to create an English-type country estate which
is supposed to be independent of all public utilities, and he knew
that Tenney would never sell any portion of his estate. Tenney
never did sell and Searles habitually rode up East Street along
the south side of the hill to reach his land which he called,
"The Highfield." He gave it that name for the reason that it
included the eastern half of the top of this hill and some of it
was actually higher than Tenney 1 s land. He rode there frequently,
to gain a panoramic view of the neighboring city of Lawrence.
Highfield was a really charming stretch of farmland and
woodland. It had high green pastures, productive apple orchards,
and groves of majestic oak trees. Searles had winding roads laid
out through the groves and dammed up a brook to form a miniature
pond which still bears his name. He would drive out through the
gateway at Pine Lodge, ride up East Street, enter Highfield and
drive along the roads, through the woods and pastures, from one
side of the hill to the other. Then he crossed the public street
that runs along the other side of Tenney^ hill and drove along
another private road, which he had made through other woodlands
that he owned, and into another realm.
- 1*8 -
" STILLWATER AND STANTON HARCOURT "
" STILLWATER AND STANTON HARCOURT "
When Searles crossed that public street he entered, what to
my mind, is the most interesting of all his real estate holdings.
It was essentially the result of his attempt to acquire and plan
such an extensive estate as those of the great landowners of the
old world. Over a period of approximately six years he
purchased, through his numerous agents, about six hundred acres
of New Hampshire farm and woodland commencing at his property in
Methuen and stretching northwards for three miles over the state
line into Salem, New Hampshire, It included a shallow, lily-
covered pond called "World's End", which alone covered over
one hundred and fifty acres. The enlargement and development of
this project was a chief interest during the remainder of his life.
His interest in this, his most extensive project, was no doubt
influenced while driving through the neighboring countryside. The
possibility that the farmers, who owned the land he wanted, would
sell seemed favorable and in 1895 he set his agents to work. As
homestead after homestead was deeded to him the farmers caught on
to his scheme and if an agent approached them, whom they suspected
was working for Searles, they did not hesitate to put a fancy price
on their land. For this reason he changed his agents quite
frequently. Some farmers, however, refused to sell at any price,
not only because their labor and their lives, actually, were in
their fifty or sixty acres, but also because they resented the idea
of one man owning so much land. Over a period of six years, one
resisting farmer, a Mr. Butler of Salem, was approached as many-
different times by as many different agents. Mr. Butler was urged
to sell by farmers to the north of him whose land Searles had
promised to buy if only Butler would sell out. Mr. Butler refused
to sell however and is living today, at the age of ninety- two, on
the same land which stopped Searles' northward progress.
After thus being compelled to limit his, let us say, private
touring reserve to six hundred acres or so, Searles proceeded to
build walls and gate houses around and in it. A group of immigrant
Italian laborers, under the direction of Charles Mann, who was also
one of Searles' real estate agents, built the walls at the rate of
approximately a mile a year. These solidly constructed stone walls
were seven feet high, four feet thick at the base, and a foot and
a half thick at the crest. Mann's diary entry for June 11, 1896
reads, "Searles and Edith (Edith Littlefield, Searles' cousin who
served as house secretary to him at Pine Lodge), or Searles and
Mr. Bell (Searles' business secretary) drop around to Stillwater
every evening about five or six p.m. to see progress on roads and
The walls follow the country roads for three miles in Salem,
New Hampshire, alone. Had he been able to purchase the few
remaining tracts of land, which he hoped to obtain to complete his
reserve before he lost interest in the project, he would have
enclosed the entire area with the same imposing type of wall.
Within the area which he was able to acquire he began a
splendid transformation. The singing Italian laborers had already
cleared most of the farm and woodlands of rocks in order to
build the walls. Not according to plan, but as the ideas for
improvement came to him, he had gate houses built, remodeled
some of the farmhouses into other gatehouses, laid out roads
through the woodlands, built quaint, water-washed stone bridges
over all the brooks and set out grove after grove of pine trees.
Because many of the farms which he bought had the farmhouse on
one side of a public road and the barn on the other, and since
he wished to have an entirely private domain, it was necessary
for him to buy the old road from the town and build a new one
around it. In the course of the enlargement of his reserve it
was necessary for him to do this several times. The town was
always a willing member to these transactions because the new
roads were always good roads and Searles was a very heavy taxpayer.
Searles loved anything old; for that reason he seldom had
any of the old farmhouses, which he had purchased, torn down.
Rather, he remodeled them and moved them away from the road and
farther into the reserve for privacy. At first the Italian
laborers, who often numbered forty, lived in many of them but
later the houses were taken over by the farmhands from Maine and
Vermont whom Searles hired to work the farmland within the reserve.
The only old house which he had demolished was one built in 1770
and faced the site where he intended to build a country manor house,
He had the farmhouses remodeled along the lines of the country
houses he had seen in Europe, but more specifically, he searched
through the pages of the collection of architectural books in his
library until he found the plans of the type that struck his
fancy in Europe and the British Isles. He did not always adhere
exactly to the plans, by any means, but rather added a gable
here, an archway there or made any alteration whatever. He was
a decorator not an architect. He did, however, know just what
he wanted and if the results of his instructions, as to the
construction of a house, did not look as he had hoped it would,
it was torn down and rebuilt.
His wealth enabled him to construct his buildings solidly
of the best materials available. This was to the advantage of
the artisans whom he employed, actually by the dozens. They were
able to gain experience at working with good material and were
allowed plenty of time to do a good job. Many of the men who
were construction apprentices employed by Searles are master
"World? s End Pond", completely surrounded by his domain,
became restricted to his private use, was renamed "Stillwater"
by him and the work of beautifying its shores was begun. Much of
the banking that followed the system of roads part way around the
pond was reinforced with water-washed stone walls, and a half-dozen
water-washed stone bridges were built over the pond's tributary
brooks and the outlet brook. He raised the level of the mouth of
the outlet in order to keep the pond at its maximum depth. But
even so, the deepest part of the pond had only eight feet of water
over a muddy bottom. Most of the pond was only about four feet
deep. Farther along the pond's outlet brook, where it crosses a
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main road, he built an elaborate bridge and dammed the brook
higher in order to make it appear more sizable on his property.
Beside the main tributary brook, which runs close by the manor
house, he built a stone tower with barred windows, and an adjoining
wall so constructed as to seem like one of the old ruined castles
of Europe. He had miniature waterfalls constructed along this
same brook and deepened and otherwise improved its entire course
to its very sources in the marshes and swamps. How strange an
experience it is for some one uninformed to stumble upon one of
these quaint bridges in the midst of the wild woods. He feels as
though he has been suddenly transported to a romantic scene in
the old world.
In "Stillwater", Searles 1 name for the whole estate, as well
as the pond, he created a little self-sufficing village. He was
the lord of the manor, so to speak, and the two dozen or so
employees who lived in the smaller surrounding houses were his
villagers. One such villager's house looks as though it was a
medieval serf's dwelling transported, foundation and all, from
the old world.
The villagers need never have left Stillwater, for their daily
requirements were all to be had within the Searles walls. As with
all farms of that day, water was supplied from wells close to each
building. Almost all the food needed to supply the members of the
little village was raised right on the place. They slaughtered
pigs and sheep in the fall and grew their own vegetables which
the women canned for use during the winter. And they made sweet
cider in the cider press at Dairy Court, where there was also a
grist mill. All the fuel used for warmth was cut from woods in
the area. Later, when Searles had a dynamo constructed to supply
the manor house with electricity, the fuel for that was also wood
cut on the property. It was cut into firewood with the use of
an old fashioned boiler engine in the courtyard. The teamsters
cut hay and did all the other regular farm labor in the summer
and cut wood and ice in the winter. The ice was stored for summer
use in a little ice house close to the pond and then brought by
wagon to Pine Lodge during the summer. Every other day a wagon
went from Dairy Court to Pine Lodge to carry down ice, farm
produce, milk, and a jug of water from a spring, the water of
which Searles was particularly fond.
Thus, on coming down Pond Street into the little village, one
entered a community independent of the outside world. And this is
the exact dictionary definition of a country seat as it is known
in England, for that is what Stillwater actually was, a country
seat. It had an atmosphere all its own. Its rustic bridges,
stone walls, stuccoed buildings, quaint gateways and English manor
house transport one into a different world. The unique layout of
the buildings and their English country village style of architecture
give the place a charm to be found no where else. It is, even today,
a cause of romantical wonder for those who chance to pass down
shady Pond Street.
The wife of Albert Lowe, the painting restorer for the Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, recalls seeing Searles on several of his daily
afternoon drives along the shaded roads at Stillwater. Mr. Lowe,
with his wife and daughter, lived in a little stone lodge at
Stillwater over a period of seven years centering around the
time of the First World War. He engaged the use of the lodge
for the purpose of painting the exquisite landscape and to escape
the clamor of industrial Lawrence. After receiving Mr. Lowe's
correspondence in regards to the rental of the stone lodge,
Searles, because he was in symphathy with Mr. Lowe's artistic
leanings and desire to get away from the noisy city, gave his
consent and later obliged Mr. Lowe by satisfying his request to
show him the art accumulated at Pine Lodge.
Mr. Houston, who lived near the stone lodge at the Oak Hill
farmhouse, one of the twelve villagers' dwellings at Stillwater,
and who was Searles' head foreman, told Mr. Lowe that Searles had
a Japanese cook who had once lived at this lodge previous to Mr.
Lowe's occupancy. Occasionally, when Searles was inspecting
Stillwater, the cook would prepare his dinner for him there. Mr.
Houston was in charge of the sheep at Stillwater, and his two
young sons herded them. One of these boys, who is now a professor
at Tufts College, often thought that the pond was originally named
"World's End" because of the depth of the mud in it. Due to this
mud it was always full of white water lillies.
Searles bought a launch, built a boat house, and constructed
water-washed stone piers at either side of the pond. The very
first day they tried the launch, it became stuck in the mud and
water lillies. The party shouted for an hour before they were able
to summon someone down from the farmhouse for assistance. Charles
Mann, Searles' construction foreman, made an entry in his diary
shortly afterwards, in June, 1896 - "talk by Bell and Searles of
dredging Stillwater, " And the surprised old pond was dredged.
Another entry in the same month mentioned that the
"foundation for lodge at Stillwater being built." And in the
next month, Searles, "shows plans for lodge at Stillwater." When
it was finished, its size and style made it actually more of a
manor house than a simple lodge. It was called Dairy Court
because his original intentions were that it should be a simple
dairy farm. It has large, beam-ceilinged rooms with beautiful
paneling, huge fireplaces, graceful stairways, and enough window
space to allow an abundance of light to flood within. The sharply
peaked slate roofs cover gabled rooms whose high windows look out
upon the higher branches of the surrounding pines and the
buildings around the courtyard below.
Mr. Houston^ son, reflecting upon his days at Stillwater so
many years ago, recollects that Searles was very particular about
keeping the heavy wooden gates, at the entrance to Stillwater
Manor grounds, closed at all times. He is positive that Searles
was the most reclusive man he has ever known. To a stranger who
chanced to drive down the shaded country road, by the walls, the
closed gates must have been a wonderful reminder of the baronial
estates of medieval days when such gates were closed for protection
from marauding neighbor barons .
Searles had an idea that farmers from Maine and Vermont made
the best farm hands because they were literally born with practical
farming experience and he hired them whenever he could. Before 1912
an approximate census of the inhabitants of Stillwater village
would be as follows: twelve immigrant Italian laborers, the
four McCloud boys and their sister Christine, a Scotch family
from Nova Scotia, the five members of the Houston family, Mr,
and Mrs. Akers who made the deliveries to Pine Lodge, Davis and
Hurlbert, farmers from Vermont, and a man named Kelley. The farm
help, exclusive of the Italians, ate at the gate house, where the
McCloud boys' sister Christine, served them. The Italians served
themselves at another house and farmers who lived near Stillwater
recall selling eggs and other products to them. The attitude of
the help towards Searles, was in general, good; he always gave
presents to the Houston boys at Christmas time.
The Oak Hill farm was one of the first that Searles bought
near the pond which can be seen from the house. After remodeling
the simple farmhouse into a charming country place with the usual
Searlesian architectural touches, he made it his headquarters
while the manor house was being built. It has an interesting
enclosed courtyard, a tall wooden tower at one end of the house
with rooms for the farmhands, and a large carriage house across
the yard. Judge Cox, of Lawrence, spent four summers there as a
gentleman- farmer before he bought, from Searles, his present farm
The Judge recalls that while he was at Oak Hill Searles asked
him if he could make use of the oxen that he had at another farm
and for which he no longer had any use. Judge Cox said that he
could and they were brought to Oak Hill. The oxen being hoisted
up for shoeing in the ox sling in the barn';s courtyard presented
a picture that could have been taken right out of the middle ages,
Searles admired Judge Cox's success at gentleman farming.
While he had all kinds of equipment at Stillwater, the best of
barns and more than enough men, he just couldn't get his lands to
produce the way the Judge's did. It was obvious that he was more
interested in having walls and towers built than in any income his
farms could produce.
At first all the buildings at Stillwater were painted red;
Searles' favorite color. Then he decided that grey would be more
in keeping with the landscape - so everything was re-painted grey.
He had a romantic name, on a sign, for every building, pond, or
grove that he owned. On a barn that stood on the site where he
built the manor house there was a sign reading "Feracroft." Names
like Crowmont, West Moorland, Dairy Court, Oak Hill, Appleside
and Spring Brook Cottage were all products of his imagination.
One architectural effect that seems to have been a favorite with
Searles is the false pigeon-loft holes that appear in the gables
of three of the buildings at Stillwater - the manor house, a little
caretaker's cottage that is still painted red opposite the manor,
and the gatehouse to West Moorland. But then again, they may owe
their existence to Henry Vaughan, Searles' English architect, since
this effect is common throughout England.
West Moorland, which probably received its name from the fact
that it stands on the edge of a moor in the western part of
Stillwater, was occupied in later years by a Mrs. Fitzgerald and
her family. She was one of Searles' favorite cooks and many a
time when he tired of the food at Pine Lodge he made the long buggy
ride up to Salem just to sit at her table. The two, long, glass
arched-roofed greenhouses, which were at West Moorland, set it
apart from the other places at Stillwater. The manor house had
a greenhouse but it was only half the size of the ones that were
at West Moorland. They supplied fresh flowers for Pine Lodge
Northgate was the name Searles gave to the house and gate in
the entrance to the northern corner of Stillwater »s six hundred
acres. The gatehouse, which was built in 1776, was on the north
side of the public road and the barn was on the south side until
he bought the property and built a new road which he exchanged
with the town for the old one, in order that he might have both
buildings within his wall-enclosed area. He remodeled the house
to suit his tastes as if he were going to live there, just as he
did with every house that came into his possession. If the place
had more rooms than he liked, he had the partitions torn down and
made larger rooms. When he bought the land on the northern shore
of the pond, adjacent to the Northgate property, he acquired the
old Ayer house, the foundation of which previously held a structure
used as a garrison against the Indians. He moved the house back
away from the road but preserved the well that stood by the road
by building his high wall out and around it.
Two or three of the houses at Stillwater village were moved
there from Methuen, across the state line. Searles would buy tracts
of land including buildings and, desiring to use the space for a
monument or another building, moved the old houses to other locations
rather than tear them down.
Beside one of the charming miniature ponds, Searles created
near his manor house, he erected a huge barn, the architecture
of which could easily have been used on a mansion as on a dwelling
for farm animals. There he kept the pony and little basket carriage
his invalid mother had used at Pine Lodge years before. When he
later recuperated at Stillwater, during a whole summer, after
breaking his ankle while watching the construction of his castle
in Windham, New Hampshire, he made good use of them to make
inspection trips about the estate. He was lame for a year after
that and noticeably restricted in the long walks which he had been
accustomed to take.
Searles had, perhaps, an art so subtle that it is hard to
distinguish as an art. His taste for the most appropriate style
of architecture for his mansions, and his selection of a location
for them was his art; if such a procedure that necessitates the
posession of vast wealth can be called art. He could select an
ordinary stretch of farmland and so plan the roads, house location,
walls and landscaping as to make it appear that it was always meant
to look the way it did when he was finished with it. True to every
artist's natural practice of completely disassociating himself with
his art once he had finished with it, Searles completed one mansion
after another and then left each one of them to go on to the next.
Yet each is so perfect in its setting as to most assuredly excite
the imagination of those who chance to find them. If any person
is in the least affected by the charms of beauty and he passes down
between the rows of trees on either side of Pond Street, by the moors
and mansion at Stillwater, he will most certainly be delighted
at the awe for oharm he will feel when he sees the picture in
reality that Searles painted.
It is evident that no matter what Searles built, additions
to his birthplace, Pine Lodge, or castle or mansion in New
Hampshire, they only held his interest while they were being built.
As each was finished, he seemed to want to forget about it and go
on to the next. While there was construction activity at each
place, and while the locality was still new to him, his interests
and his spirits were high. It might be said that his building
projects were all that made life bearable for him. He was a lonely
man despite his wealth, and his daily inspections at each of his
projects were his only defense against complete loneliness. By
the time he had lost interest in Stillwater, in 1908, he was
already deeply absorbed in another project that was vaguely
connected with the mansion and its six hundred acres. There could
be no doubt that they made a charming country seat. However,
Stillwater wasn't quite what Searles wanted. Besides country
mansions, he had seen other things while he was in Europe -
specifically, castles atop high hills overlooking clear blue lakes
far below. In 1902, even before the Stillwater estate was
completed, he decided to build a castle and began buying land six
miles farther north in Windham, New Hampshire. Just as the flat
moorland at Stillwater was a perfect setting for a manor house,
so was the site Searles selected in Windham a perfect setting for
a castle. The thirty or forty pieces of farmland that he acquired
in Windham included the highest hill in the area and overlooked
gently sloping meadowland and two beautiful blue lakes.
Perhaps the real reason why Searles decided to build a castle
was to correct what to him was a long standing unfortunate
situation. His neighbor in Methuen, Charles Tenney, although not
anywhere near as wealthy as he, lived in a castle on top of the
hill that overlooked his own wooden mansion. Now he too would
live on top of a hill, even if it meant moving out of state.
In 1905, after he had secured about llj.00 acres of land,
construction on the hilltop castle was begun. It was to be a
one-quarter scale replica of the medieval Tudor castle called
St an ton-Hare ourt, in Oxfordshire, England. Henry Vaughan, Searles 1
English architect, designed the replica into twenty rooms including
servants' quarters. The original castle in England was built in
llj.5>0. Its Tudor-style architecture is characterized by a great
semicircular bay window which runs the height of the building. It
has a gatehouse erected in lf>ij.O, a vast kitchen and a "Pope's Tower."
Searles' Stanton-Harcourt also has a very fine kitchen and a replica
of this "Pope's Tower", so constructed as to be suitable for guests 1
quarters. The Harcourt family, which came to England from Prance
with William the Conqueror, still inhabits the old castle.
Searles' replica in Windham is a striking structure with
battlemented towers jutting high into the sky above the hilltop.
A caretaker once described it as "a pile of stones on top of the
hill." Actually it is a combination of carefully cut granite,
fieldstones, and dark red sandstone fitted into the architect's
intricate design. Searles' love for good workmanship is manifest
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in the richly carved oak paneling, hand-hewn timbered ceilings,
and grand fireplaces throughout the castle. It has walls eight
feet thick, mullioned windows, great arched gateways, spacious
rooms and a perfectly carved oak staircase. This staircase, a
masterpiece in woodcarving craftsmanship, leads to the chambers
above, and to a large stateroom on the third floor of the castle.
The Gothic-style doors of the castle's main hall were removed
from the Great Barrington mansion. They originally came from
Windsor Castle in England where Searles had discovered them in
the shop of a dealer in antiquities. The living room has a
marble fireplace which reputedly came from Napoleon's favorite
room in the Tuileries grand palace, Paris. The Searles coat of
arms is richly carved into the oak paneling above this fireplace.
Every day Searles would drive the ten miles from Methuen,
Massachusetts, to Windham, New Hampshire, to watch the construction
of his castle. He would have his cook prepare a pot of baked beans
to take along. When he remained in Windham overnight, he stayed
at the old Morrison house near the site of the castle. He acquired
this property, however, only after Stanton-Harcourt was well on
its way towards completion. He could not acquire the homestead
until the last of the Morrisons died; then he purchased the
property, and, as a last step in making the entire district
completely his own, bought from the town of Windham, a schoolhouse
which was, at the time, completely surrounded by his land.
Accordingly, on November 6, 1906, th© town of Windham voted to
discontinue the roads which ran through the Searles estate and to
accept the new ones he had built. This was, "to take effect at
such a time as Edward F. Searles shall convey to the school
district of the town of Windham a schoolhouse and a lot of land
acceptable to the committee." to replace the old schoolhouse
within the limits of his property. Needless to say, the new
schoolhouse greatly surpassed the old one in proportions and
elegance of architectural design.
One day Searles was up on the roof over the semi-circular
bay window of the castle with one of the workmen. He said,
"What do you think of that, Jack?]'' Referring to the panoramic
view from that vantage point.
Jack May answered, "Beautiful, just beautiful.'"
Then, referring to a new, graceful, triple-arched bridge over a
stream in the meadow at the foot of the hill. Searles asked,
"Well, what do you think I should call it?"
Young Jack May pondered for a moment and then suggested,
"The Bridge of Sighs."
"Well, why that?" asked Searles.
Jack replied, "Because I don't own it J"
When the castle was finished, in 1915, Searles celebrated
the occasion at Pine Lodge by inviting about a dozen guests.
Among them were Mr. Charles Tenney, Henry Vaughan, and Henry
Cabot Lodge, Sr. The Lodge family, including the present
Henry Cabot Lodge, later spent a week vacationing at the castle.
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" MADE TO ORDER "
- 66 -
M MADE TO ORDER "
Searles had been showering gifts upon the town of Methuen
partly out of benevolence - but also to achieve something that
was obscure to the public yet important to him. And though the
townspeople did not know that these gifts had been made until
after they had already been accepted by higher town officials,
they were grateful and showed appreciation. Actually, Searles 1
money had bent the townspeople to his will. Slowly but surely
he was establishing himself as the chief benefactor of the town
and at the same time accomplishing many little changes that he
could not otherwise have made without the public's consent. Each
building he erected for the town was exactly to his liking in
style and location. Some, like the high school, were built so
the more beautiful Tudor-style facade would face his own estate,
close by and present a grand appearance chiefly for his own benefit.
At the same time, the townspeople, aware of the fact that he was
saving thousands of dollars for them through his gifts, were
becoming more and more obliged to him even though they would have
no say as to where or how the various buildings would be built.
He made them for the town but they were made to his order. In fact,
he gradually made over a large part of the town to his own liking
and met with very little opposition. In the face of his gifts it
was hard for the town to object to anything that he chose to
- 67 -
undertake. The very magnitude of these gifts made any show of
non-compliance to his wishes seem indecent. The townspeople tred
lightly around him and his feelings because it paid to, and he
paid, quite generously.
The Emmanuel Primative Methodist Church (1901) in Methuen was
the first of five churches that Searles erected as a gift to a
church group and it also was the smallest, being a single-story
wooden structure finished in stucco and brown trim. In his deed
to the church group, for the land on which the building was
erected, he made the restriction that no intoxicating liquors
were ever to be sold on the premises. If the property was ever
used for anything other than religious purposes it was to revert
back to him or his heirs. He made the same provisions in his deed
for the St. George's Primative Methodist Church, the second that he
built in Methuen. Also, and this is most important, if the town
of Methuen should ever be annexed to any other municipality, the
property would be forfeited to him. The City of Lawrence had been
trying for some time to annex little Methuen, causing Searles much
anxiety. This clause in the church deed was no doubt a strong
force in influencing the parishioners to help him to keep the town
rural and independent from Lawrence. Certainly his money was the
power that enabled him to make the town to order.
St. George's Primative Methodist Church (190i|.) is a small brick
Romanesque structure with a domed tower at the left of the facade.
It is the largest and probably the most costly of the five churches.
The most interesting feature of this church is the large, richly
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stained organ which occupies a prominent position. It could
very well be that Searles built the church as high-vaulted and
simple, as its interior decorations are, so as not to detract
from the beautiful organ - for this was a special organ and
required a special setting. For many years he had used it as
his exhibition organ set up in the organ testing hall of his
The All Saints Episcopal Church (190ij.) on Broadway, Methuen,
is typical of the small parish church one would expect to see in
a small English rural town. Its stucco and brown exterior trim
in simple geometrical design is more pleasing than it is elaborate.
Although this church is smaller than the St, George's Primative
Methodist Church, which Searles also built in the same year, the
delicate lacery of its interior woodwork is more beautiful. This
church was also furnished with an organ from the Searles organ
When Searles acquired the public road that ran through his
Windham estate, together with the public school on that road, he
was obliged to build a new road and school nearby. The school that
he subsequently built occupied one half of the building, the other
half of which he directed be used as a chapel unrestricted to any
denomination. As usual, the building's exterior was finished in
stucco and brown trim, but, unlike the others, it and its setting
have a different sort of charm reminiscent of a lonely mansion in
a bleak rural province such as Normandy,
The North Salem Church (1911), in New Hampshire, is the fifth
and second smallest church that Searles built. When the original
church burnt down in 1909 Searles offered to match, dollar for
dollar, whatever the parishioners could raise provided that he
could supervise the erection of the new building. In the end
he had to do a good deal more than match each of the parishioners
In March of 1896 the members of the Methuen Town Meeting
chose a committee of three persons to select the most appropriate
site for a new high school building. At the next meeting, in
1897, the committee reported that they found the site immediately
adjoining the old high school building to be the most suitable
and advised that it be purchased, which was done. This land was
directly across the street from the site where Searles was planning
to erect his Washington monument, and it was obvious to him that
if a high school building went up there it would be too close to
allow the monument the space it needed. He wanted nothing to
detract from the beauty of this monument. He finally erected the
monument much farther away from the street than he originally
planned. He immediately decided that the only way to solve the
problem was to prevent the high school from being built on that
site and he set the power of his wealth to work to achieve this end,
As soon as Searles learned what site the committee had chosen,
and bought in 1897* he began to buy land some distance away on top
of a slope opposite Tenney's castle, but sufficiently distant from
the Washington monument site. The following excerpt from the
March, 1898, Methuen Town Meeting ledger explains itself:
"Report of Committee on High School Building -
The Committee appointed and extended at the last town
meeting to consider the subject of a new high school
building beg leave to report progress and ask for
"The progress which they are able to report is that
our honored townsman, Mr. Searles, has authorized them
to say that he is going to commence the erection of a
high school building for the town of Methuen, upon his
own property immediately."
At the Town Meeting in March 1900 the members attempted to partly
repay Searles for his yet unfinished high school by voting -
"to furnish such police protection as Mr. Searles
shall call for at any time and also place an extra
officer on night duty."
On June 22, 1901, at Town Meeting, the town's obligation to him
was even more clearly set forth:
"Hon. James 0. Parker offered the following
resolutions which were unanimously adopted by a rising
vote and it was voted that a copy be engrossed and sent
to Mr. Searles....
"Whereas our fellow citizen and townsman, Edward F.
Searles, in his generosity has seen fit to make a
donation of $15,000. to the town of Methuen for the
purpose of aiding in the construction of a system of
sewers now in progress, therefore be it,
"Resolved, that the legal voters of Methuen Town
Meeting assembled, accept this munificent gift in the
spirit in which it were made, as a free will offering
for the benefit of all the citizens of the town,
"Resolved, that we are under obligations to the
same generous and public- spirited citizen for numerous
and expensive public improvements, all of which show
his love for the town of Methuen.
"Resolved, that we extend to the donor, Mr. Edward
F. Searles, in behalf of the town, a vote of thanks,
which we are confident will express the sentiments of
every citizen of the town."
About 1902, during the building of the high school, Searles
employed the Irving & Casson decorating company of Boston to
execute a quantity of wood carvings for his estate and the high
school building. Mr. John Kirchmayer, the most noted woodoarver
in Gothic style of his day, was in charge of the work and was
assisted by Mr. H. C. Hughes. Mr. Kirchmayer came from
Oberammergau, Germany, where he also studied sculpture. Mr. Hughes
studied under Kirchmayer at the Irving & Gas son woodworking shop
in Cambridge. He is still a member of that firm and recalls
occasions when Searles came to the shop to see how some work they
were doing for him was progressing. Searles chose that firm to
decorate his buildings because of his friendship with Mr. Casson,
whom he met, presumably, when he himself was a decorator in Boston
with Paul & Company.
Mr. Hughes recalls the : many days which he spent at the high
school building working on the capitals of the study-hall ceiling
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and on the tympanums and Gothic style screen for the organ in
the music room at Pine Lodge. Besides doing the work at Pine
Lodge, Mr, Casson T s men did all the interior decorating work
in the five churches that Searles had built.
On May 6, 190lj- he deeded the completed high school to the
town. The most prominent feature of the ornate Tudor style
building is a large oak-paneled study hall with a semi-circular
bay window at one end. The high peaked ceiling is supported by
heavy, carved oak ribs which meet the walls twenty feet from the
floor. Light streaking through high windows at either end of the
hall lends a cathedral effect. In fact, the hall was at first
used as a chapel by the students. It is truly a beautiful
building, equal to any found even at the largest universities.
The arched passageways on the lower floors of the building reveal
masonry as strong and enduring as that of any Tudor castle in
England. Compared to Tenney f s castle close by, the high school
is by far the more beautiful and imposing structure. In fact the
completion of the high school building automatically transferred
first place in architectural beauty in town from the Tenney castle
to the new building.
Regardless of the personal reasons that might have activated
Searles into building the high school, and later a grammar school,
and though his great wealth made it comparatively easy for him t©
do so, the members of the town meeting at once compared him to
John Harvard. Although what one man wrote and what the whole town
thought are two different things, the former is at least significant
in revealing that one man believed wholeheartedly in the integrity
of practicing gratitude -
"November 9, 1905 - Special Town Meeting -
"Mr. Hartshorne, chairman of the school committee,
offered the following resolutions which were
"Whereas, in the colonial days of 1636 by a
•vote of four hundred pounds to found a college 1 ,
Massachusetts was the first commonwealth in history
to appropriate public funds for educational purposes,
which grant was two years later augmented by half the
fortune of John Harvard, thus founding Harvard
"whereas, during the more than two and a half
intervening centuries not only has that institution
flourished and grown great, but public education itself
has ever been regarded as the bulwark of the state, and
high-minded, public-spirited, well-endowed citizens
have ever and anon come forward with their wealth to
develop and expand the opportunity demanded by the state,
of each community for the education of its youth. So now
our town of Methuen has in these latter days been greatly
honored by a wealthy son, not only by the gift of a
magnificent home for our high school, but by the love and
care which the further possibilities of this building
imply. If a thing of beauty be a joy forever, then great
should be our joy and his, for not only is this building
beautiful, but it is built to endure the ravages of time.
- 7k -
"Now therefore be it resolved by the citizens
of Methuen in town meeting assembled that to Bdward
P. Searles, the donor, there is now, and ever shall
be, due a debt of appreciation and gratitude not to
be expressed in words, and that we commend to our
children and our children's children, in the use of
such riches as God and their own efforts may endow
them with, a like spirit of disposal.
"Be it further provided that this resolution be
spread upon the records of the town and that the
school committee be, and is hereby instructed to
prepare and present to Mr. Searles an appropriately
engrossed copy thereof duly attested by the town
clerk, selectmen, and school committee."
Mr. Hartshorne's resolutions mention the high school as if
it were an outright gift. Actually Searles leased the building
to the town for twenty-five years. The deed explains that he
does not give the title to the land and buildings outright to the
town because he wished to make further improvements upon it. At
this time,. in 1905>, the interior was not completely finished.
At the same meeting, Mr. Hartshorne read another resolution
tending gratitude to Searles for his gift of the Central Grammar
School which was also finished at that time. It was also voted:
"by a unanimous vote, that the selectmen be
authorized to transfer by deed to Mr. Edward P. Searles
the real estate belonging to the town adjacent to the
new Central Grammar School building, and that the
selectmen be authorized to sign said deed in behalf
of the town,"
That deed gave Searles the lot of land directly across the
street from the site where his Washington monument stands. He
immediately had it walled up and thus created the surrounding
landscape much less distracting from the monument than it would
have been if the town had built its new high school there.
On Saturday evenings, between 1900 and 1906, Searles often
walked up to see his aunt Liddie Sterns whom he had persuaded to
move to Methuen after her husband died several years previously.
She lived at High Lodge, a beautiful Georgian mansion on the
public road near Searles 1 Highfield property. What really brought
Searles up to see his aunt was the Saturday night supper of fish
cakes, baked beans and brown bread. He always joked that he
couldn't get anything he liked to eat at Pine Lodge and often
discussed how hard it was to get anything good to eat anywhere.
He protested that the days of good old-fashioned cooking were gone
forever. Whenever he went to High Lodge for his old-fashioned
supper he always took his soda mints along with him. Once, when
Searles was left without a cook, Mrs. Sterns sent her own cook to
work for him. On the note which she gave her cook, to introduce
her to Searles, she pasted the following printed poem:
"We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience and live without heart;
We may live without friends, we may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks."
Whenever Searles visited his aunt on Saturday night he
usually dressed as he pleased, that is, not formal. He wore,
as a rule, a shepard plaid coat of black and white check, dress
trousers with an obscure stripe, a vest that didn't match either,
and a bow tie. Sometimes he wore a vest that went with his coat,
and a four-in-hand tie, but he usually wore the same clothes with
a tie in some shade of red to match his favorite brown vest. He
was habitually polishing his pince-nez glasses seemingly in an
attempt to keep them as shiny as his immaculately polished tan
shoes. A ring with a very large sapphire completed his attire.
He was careful about his appearance, never leaving the house
without a clean shave, which partly accounted for his very ruddy
complexion. He had blue eyes, a nose just a little too small, a
prominent forehead and a rather full lower lip. His voice was low
pitched. Although his cropped military-style moustache was turning
grey, his hair, except for the mutton-chops in front of his ears,
still had the reddish-gold tinge that was much more marked in
former years. In short, he was a singularly handsome and well-
preserved man of medium height and build with broad shoulders and
well moulded facial features. He walked erect and very fast,
looked young for his age, and never had a stoop*
Prom talks with him after supper on those frequent Saturday
night visits, his aunt's niece's husband, Judge Cox, recalls that
his chief topic of conversation was food and its current prices as
compared with those during his youth. On the other hand Searles
could be very interesting. When Judge Cox visited him at Pine Lodge
one evening, he spent a good part of the time showing the Judge
through the mansion and pointing out different objects or
paintings in his vast collection of art, with a detailed
explanation of just where and how he had obtained each. It
was amazing how he could remember the very incident when he
had purchased each item in his collection. If one particular
object reminded him of a rather interesting town in Europe,
where he had bought it, nothing would do but for him to recount
for the Judge how he happened to be traveling there and simply
everything of interest that he could remember about the place.
It pleased him to reminisce, thus, of his European travels,
and for that matter, to reminisce about anything. One evening
in early summer as Judge Cox was leaving Pine Lodge, with Searles
accompanying him to the gate, Searles pointed out each of the
trees along the walk and on the grounds and told how he had them
planted twenty-five years before. He then spoke of the pity that
more people didn't plant trees. He cited the fact that most
people think it takes a lifetime for a tree to grow, and yet here
were the beautiful trees that he had planted only twenty-five
Searles often told friends of his that his reason, or at
least one of his reasons, for building churches was that they
kept the boys in Sunday School on one of the two days of the week
when they might otherwise be climbing over his walls. It is not
certain whether this is truth or legend but it is certain that
his chief reason for complying with someone's request to build a
church, home for the aged, boy's club, or anything for that matter,
- 78 -
was that it gave him a chance to supervise the building and
decorating work. The truth of this is augmented by the fact
that he never gave money outright for something to be built.
He always made the provision that he be allowed to supervise
the work himself.
During 1908-1909 he deeded the railroad station, he began
to build in 1905, to the Boston & Maine Railroad, built the
Berkely Street home for the aged in Lawrence, and paid off a
$66,000, debt due from the town of Methuen, In 1911 he added
a chapel to the Berkely Street home for the aged in memory of
his aunt Liddie Sterns, In 1913 he built, for the town of
Methuen, a concrete bridge over the Spicket Rivei* adjacent to
his organ factory on Broadway, And at the same town meeting
that the gift of the bridge was announced, it was also voted:
"to close East Street from the junction of
Lawrence Street and Washington Place - to the
junction of the new street built by Edward F. Searles."
"Voted: to accept the new street running
from Lawrence Street to East Street as laid out by
the selectmen, "
He had finally achieved what he had always wanted - he bought,
or rather swapped, for the public street that ran in front of
his mansion, another street that he had built skirting his estate,
He walled up the old street and never again had to use the quaint
stucco and brown trim overpass which he had formerly used to get
to his stables behind the wall on the other side of East Street,
without once walking on public ground.
- 79 -
After his uncle, Artemas Stems, the Lawrence department
store magnate, died he moved his aunt out of the smoky mill
city to Methuen where he was sure she would be more oomfortable.
He detested the factories in that city and did all in his power
to erradioate the mills in his own town, Methuen. His organ
factory in Methuen hardly looked like a factory, and made no
noise. He had replaced the woolen mill, which had formerly
occupied the building, with something far more respectable. It
was evident that Searles had a vague plan to keep Methuen a rural
town. Towards this end he attempted to buy up all the river front
property in town in order to prevent manufacturers from building
any more factories than were already standing. He not only
attempted to buy but actually did finally buy all the river front
property from the already established mill in the center of Methuen
to the Arlington Mills on the border of Lawrence; all this with
the exception of a large stretch on the left bank on which his
good friend, Mrs. Henry Nevins, had erected a home for the aged in
memory of her late husband* Thus, all the river front property
that could have possibly been used by manufacturers was either
owned by Searles or otherwise unavailable for a factory site.
Out of one such parcel of river front land across the street from
his mansion on Lawrence Street he created a small pond with
graceful white swans, small dock, and boats. A house on another
parcel became the rectory for a church he had built nearby. Thus,
the land that manufacturers might some day have bought was diverted
to other ends. It is rather ironical that Searles successfully
used money that machine industry, in the form of railroads, had
made to stop progress of machine industry in Methuen.
There is another bit of irony attached to Searles ' last
purchase of river front property in 1903. It will be remembered
that the Tenney brothers were doing a fine business in shoe and
hat manufacturing in Methuen about i860 when Searles, despairing
of all factories, went to Boston to seek better employment.
In 1903 Searles bought from J. M. Tenney, one of the four brothers,
the same land and factory which had made them wealthy enough to b©
greatly envied by the young Searles. The site was never occupied
by a factory again until after Searles 1 death.
At the turn of the century the second largest building in
the main square of the town of Methuen was a rather shabby looking
three- story wooden structure called The Exchange Hotel. It held
the most prominent position on the square and was, particularly to
Searles, an eyesore. In l897# when it came up for sale, Searles
welcomed the chance to buy it and have it converted into something
more to his liking. He had no particular use for the building
but simply bought it and the adjoining livery stables for the same
reason he had bought many other buildings in town - to make them
look as he would have them look. In short order his architect and
builders converted the simple wooden building into a charming
stucco and white trim town house with two halls and towers and
unusual architectural features such as French windows and a
collonaded porch. It remained empty until a group from the Young
Men's Christian Association suggested that he might outfit the
building for them. This he did, but when interest seemed to fall
off lie decided to close the building and let it remain empty
until a new use could be found. Thus it remained until 191f>
when his friend John Ingraham, a Mason, told his fellow Masons,
at a meeting, that he had been authorized by Searles to present
to the Masonic Lodge the property and building then known as
"the Y.M.C.A.", without any conditions attached, for Masonic
purposes. It was to be given in memory of Searles 1 father,
Jessie Gould Searles, who was a Mason.
John Ingraham began working for Searles about 1892 and in
1906 was given full charge of all affairs of the Methuen Organ
Company. In 1910, the Masonic Temple of Methuen, of which
Ingraham was a member, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.
Through Ingraham' s influence, the out-of-town visiting Masons
were entertained at the Serlo Organ Hall, and elsewhere about
the Searles estate. In October of 1916, when the Masonic Temple
was formally dedicated, Searles assisted in the reception of the
guests in the afternoon, and became the honored guest of the
Grand Master in the evening.
The livery stables, adjacent to the old hotel, were removed
and replaced by a picturesque building by the moving of several old
houses to the site and remodeling them into a new structure. When
it was finished, in 1900, it was a three and a half story stucco
and brown trim affair with the upper portions done in red shingles.
Its deep eaves and small balconies make the building seem much
larger than it actually is. The interior woodwork, as with many
of Searles' buildings, is beautifully worked cypress paneling.
Beamed ceilings and a sturdy, wide, staircase lend strength and
warmth of color simultaneously. The main feature of the building
was a paneled coffee room and tap room; each with an enormous
carved-stone fireplace and heavy beams in the high ceilings.
Searles erected this building, perhaps, because he felt
obliged to replace the hotel, which he had remodeled, by another
one - smaller, yet more elaborate. Even so, it was quite adequate
for the small number of travelers who stopped in Methuen. He
called it, romantically enough, The Red Tavern,
Searles was truly a fortunate man in acquiring great wealth,
but being so wealthy he often found himself excluded from the
circle of the average man of the town. While he was watching his
carpenters remodeling the building he had bought directly across
the street from the Masonic Temple, in the main square of the
town, a man came in to get some of the workmen to sign his
nomination papers for his election to a town office. He went to
almost every man in the building but did not approach Searles for
fear that Searles would think that he was asking for free support.
Whatever the cause was, Searles was deeply hurt and remarked, so,
to Charlie Dudley, his chauffeur.
Incidently, when this building was finished with the usual
stucco and, this time, cream-color trim and row of columns across
the front, it too remained vacant for several years until a use
could be found for it. In 1909, when the town officials had to
evict, for need of space, the First National Bank from the rooms
in the town hall which they had been renting, they arranged with
Searles to lease his newly remodeled building and have been there
ever since. John A. Perkins, a Methuen banker, was one of Searles'
best friends and often came to Pine Lodge to visit. He always
brought hi3 jew»s-harp and stayed all evening. Then they went
into the dining room where a box was kept well supplied with
cookies and pie. They had their pie and then Mr. Perkins went
The fourth and last building which Searles remodeled in the
town^ main square was supposed to be a grocery store in which
he was setting up a friend in business. When it was finished,
with its six wooden Greek Revival columns in front, it was
probably the most unique grocery store in New England. The
changes made on this building, together with those made on the
three other prominent buildings in the very center of town, made
the power of Searles' wealth felt above and beyond the changes
he had made already - namely, his miles of wall, rambling mansion,
and monopoly of the lands that had once comprised about a dozen
farms. He was making the town to order, and to his own order
at that. Pew yet realized the great influence which he extended
upon the town.
Edwin Castle who ran the drugstore, and later the grocery
across the street from the Masonic Temple, was also Searles 1
business manager on the town newspaper - Searles 1 Methuen Transcript,
He was Searles 1 mouthpiece at town meetings and often acted as
real estate agent for him.
Mark Hopkins would have been amazed to know that the millions
he had amassed building railroads was to be the power factor in
the physical transformation of a little New England town. Bach
passenger who paid his fare as he boarded one of Mark Hopkins'
trains in California was actually giving his bit so that
Methuen might one day look like an English village. Besides
remodeling many buildings he had other, unsightly, buildings
demolished in order to beautify the surroundings. All these
small real estate purchases added together comprised a large
fraction of the town's land owned by one man. Even as early
as 1891 Searles was by far the heaviest taxpayer in town,
excepting, of course, the mills.
- 85 -
" APPLESIDE "
" APPLESIDE M
The townspeople, by 1918, were beginning to think of Searles
as an aged eccentric hiding in an ancient fortress, A generation
had grown old and another had come into maturity since he first
began to alter the architecture of his parents 1 little farmhouse.
And the new generation, knowing nothing whatever about the man's
life and the origin of his wealth and mansions, accepted him as
part of a mystical legend and gave ready ear to the ridiculous
and jealous adornments to the legend concocted by the older
inhabitants of the town. Some of these older people had even
gone to school with Searles and they were obviously jealous of his
wealth and the prestige that it had enabled him to acquire.
However, there can be no doubt that they were partly justified in
calling him eccentric, if that means he was different; did things
differently, and lived on a different looking estate. It was
perfectly natural - with his wealth he could afford to have
everything different. Fellow townsmen were jealous and the farmers,
especially, ridiculed him. His once simple farm was, after all, a
strange sight for a farming town - with its swans and ponds, marble
lions and acres of lawns, a Greek Revival windmill framed between
Doric columns in the hayfield, statues atop the halls, bridges and
His rambling, seventy-four room mansion with its fantasy of
gables, porticoes, and wings, still stood behind the high street
wall but he hardly ever entered it now, prefering to live in the
more modern wing, farthest away from the street, which he built
at the turn of the century. It was farther up on the hill than
the rest of the mansion and, probably, because it was closer to
the apple orchard, he called it Appleside. The dust in the dozens
of rooms in the three stories of old Pine Lodge slowly settled
down upon the antique furniture and bric-a-brac just as age was
slowly settling down upon Searles himself. He realized that it
was no longer a perfect work of art, but, because he had spent so
much thought and time on it he was reluctant to tear down the
curiosity full of curiosities. It wa3 a diversion which first
preoccupied and, now, wearied him. Age alone was probably the
chief reason why he wearied of many things.
With age came loneliness and even the frequent change of
surroundings he effected by going to New York periodically became
of little use to enliven his spirits. In 19Uf.» when he was
seventy- three, he was in the habit of busying himself as best he
could around Methuen for several months by visiting his different
property holdings, and then he would go to New York for a week or
two. He had an office at 71 Broadway, in the firm of Thomas Hubbard
who managed the Searles millions. After a few hours at the office
he would go to his hotel, the Biltmore, and begin to wonder what
was going on in Methuen right about that time. It was obvious,
even to the elevator operator at the Biltmore, that Searles was a
very lonely man. His name was Angelo M. Ellison, and he remembers
to this day that the white-moust ached old gentleman never tipped as
- 88 -
did some of his other passengers. The lad, Angy as he was called,
was somewhat lonely himself. He had just recently arrived from
Greece and although it was easy to adopt a name more easy to
pronounce than his real one, it was not so easy to master the
English language. This difficulty, together with the necessity
of earning a living, made it very hard for him to associate with
boys his own age.
Usually Searles greeted the elevator boy with a polite "good
morning" or "good evening" each time he entered the elevator.
Gradually, however, he began to take a kindly interest in the
seventeen year-old boy's home country, his parents, and his
difficulties in mastering a new language. Shortly, in Angy's own
words, "He started to tell me a few things about himself ", and
asked Angy if he would like to work as his personal companion.
Naturally, tired of traveling up and down the Biltmore Hotel all
day, every day, Angy accepted the new job at once. In the months
that followed, each time Searles came to New York, he and Angy
would go for long walks along Fifth Avenue and occasionally go to
the Metropolitan Opera House. When Searles went on inspection
trips of his holdings, such as the Pittsburgh & Shawmut Railroad
coal pits, he wa3 always accompanied by Angy. In Philadelphia
they stopped to visit Searles' aunts, the Smith sisters. And back
in New York on Sundays they usually went to the Cathedral of Saint
John the Divine, the organ of which Searles was quite fond. By
this time Searles' legal address was at The Murray Hill Hotel -
rooms 61j.6 and 6l|7; his legal residence as a citizen of the State of
New York. He had made New York his legal address to protest the
heavy taxes imposed upon him in Massachusetts.
In 1915 Searles took Angy to Methuen to accompany him on his
long rides there and in New Hampshire, While Stanton-Harcourt
was acquiring the finishing touches to it3 interior decoration
Angy lived at Morrison Lodge nearby and Searles lived in Methuen.
There follows two letters from Searles to Angy written
during the next summer:
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. July 22, 1916
My Dear Ellison,
Your little note received; glad to hear from you
and that you were well this very hot weather. I have
not been able to find a cook for the castle, although
I have answered several advertisements. I was in
Boston yesterday trying to find someone but did not
succeed. I think I shall be obliged to try for a
I hope we shall be able to find someone soon as
I am anxious to have you back again.
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. July 2^, 1916
As soon as I hear from the cook, at what time he
will arrive, I will send you word so you can come on
at once, which I hope will be the last of this week.
I got your clothes from the tailor and have
taken them to Windham.
Hoping we shall soon be able to get settled at
the castle, I remain,
Very truly yours,
They did finally get settled at the castle and Angy spent
various weeks there throughout the summer, besides living there
all through that winter. Try to imagine what living in a castle
must have felt like to a poor boy who had had to operate an
elevator all day for a living. He lived there also during part
of the summer of 1917, up to the time when he enlisted in the
Army. Even then, Searles used his influence to have him transferred
to a station in Jersey City, New Jersey, so that Angy could live
almost as well as a civilian, going to and from The Murray Hill
Hotel in New York City whenever he choose. Even so, Searles saw
less of him than before, and his letters became noticeably more
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. Sept. 29, 1917
My dear Ange,
Just a line to let you know that I received your
two letters this morning and hasten to tell you how
glad I was to hear from you.
If you go to New York today I am sorry that I
cannot be there. I was obliged to come to Methuen
to attend to many things, but I will be in New York
next Saturday and Sunday.
If you can get away I will be waiting for you
at the Murray Hill.
I hope you will soon get your uniform as I am
afraid you will be cold in your thin clothes.
If you get hungry buy something outside, if you
can get it, and don't mind spending the money for you
can have some more.
If you don't come to New York next Saturday I
shall go out to Allentown to see you on Monday or
Do the best you can to take care of yourself
and be a good soldier and believe me, as ever,
Besides signing off as "Dad", the letters which followed
reveal how close the youth was to Searles' heart.
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. Oct. Ij., 1917
My dear Soldier Boy,
If your new uniform is not warm enough you must get
some new underclothing, Don*t spare the money to make
yourself comfortable. I don»t think I will be able
to go to New York again until after the fifteenth of
this month; if I do I will telegraph you.
Hope you are well and take good care of yourself,
and believe me as ever the same.
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. Oct. 1, 1917
My dear Soldier Boy,
Oh how sorry I am that I was not at the Hotel to
welcome you. I was obliged to come home, to be on
time for payday the first of the month.
I went up to the Castle today and closed it up.
I think of you every day and night and wonder if you
are warm and comfortable. I miss you very much, my
life is only half a life without my dear boy.
God Bless and keep you from harm is my prayer.
With much love from your old guardian,
P.S. - This is all the paper I can get tonight; the
Pine Lodge paper is in Miss Littlef ield»s desk and
she has gone to bed.
Yl'.kS P.M. Good Night n
Miss Edith Littlefield was Searles' cousin. She and her
mother had been living in one of the caretaker's houses nearby.
After Miss Littlefield 1 s mother died Searles brought his cousin
up to the big house, Pine Lodge, to live and act as his personal
secretary. They habitually opened and answered the mail
together every morning. It is obvious, from the card accompanying
a gift that she gave him, that they were warmly attached to one
another. The card, which Searles saved by placing it in one of
the books in his library, addresses him intimately as "Ned", his
"Murray Hill Hotel Oct. 10, 1917
Park Ave. & l^Oth to klat Sts.
One Block from Grand Central Station
My dear Boy,
I leave tonight at 12 M. I could not get ready
for the five o'clock train.
I went to the Studio to see your pictures and I
took three of them. They are fine. I had one taken
of myself for you. Will send one to you next week if
I get them.
I now must get ready and pack my bags. I miss you
Here there is a break in the letters and it seems evident that
it was about this time that Searles substituted Arthur Walker, for
Miss Littlefield, to act as his private secretary. Walker
was a clerk in the offices of Stillraan & Hubbard, the law firm
that represented the Searles railroad interests on Wall Street,
At Searles 1 invitation, Walker spent a week in Methuen in
November, 1911, to rest after an illness he had in New York.
Later, when William Shillaber, Sr. died, and left a vacancy on
the Searles-owned New York Globe, Searles chose Walker to take
his place. After Walker became SearlesJ private secretary he
handled much of his business correspondence, and later claimed
that Searles even dictated some of his letters to Angy to him.
And possibly he did dictate a few, for the mid-summer letters
of 1918 are not so personal as the others:
My dear Ange, Methuen, Mass. June 3, 1918
Yours of the 29th received and I was very happy to
hear from you, and wish you could be here sitting under
the pine trees. I think you would like the odor of the
pines better than the smell of gasoline and oil, but we
cannot do anything now-a-days that we want to do.
I have been up to Windham two or three times, but
the Castle looks lonesome without you and Sammy rolling
on the grass. Sammy has grown to be a fine big dog.
Yours as ever, the same old, loving
- 95 -
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. July 5, 1918
My dear lonesome boy Ange,
I was very glad to hear from you; it seems as
though I have been away a month, although it is
only a week.
Yesterday I celebrated the Fourth by going up
to Windham with Miss Littlefield and paid a visit
to Morrison Lodge and the Castle on the hill.
We got caught in a thunder shower so we had to
wait in Morrison Lodge until the rain was over.
Seavey and the men were at work in the hay field
until the rain came on; then they had to give it up.
Take good care of yourself and sleep well at
the Murray Hill and forget that you are lonesome.
Your loving old Dad is lonesome without you,
A week or so later, at the Murray Hill Hotel, Searles awoke
during the night with a pain in his abdomen. He roused Angy who
called a doctor. The doctor revealed that Searles had prost ate
gland trouble and gave him a sedative. Angy was discharged from
the Army early in the following month of August, 1919, and since
the doctor had been prescribing a change of scenery for Searles,
for quite some time, they traveled to the Canadian Rockies stopping
at Lake Louise then on to the Pacific Coast. They returned to
New York in September.
By this time Angy was twenty-three years old and had matured
since Searles first met him. He decided to return to his homeland
to straighten, out family affairs over there. Accordingly, on
November 5, 1919, Searles sent him off to Smyrna, Asia Minor.
Before the ship sailed Angy wrote the following letter:
"On board S.S. Canada November 5, 1919
My dear loving Daddy,
In an hour or so the boat is sailing and by
tomorrow I will be far away on the sea. But no matter
in what part of the globe I am found I will always love
you and remember you. You have been too good to me,
more than I ever deserved, but dear Daddy be sure that
your boy always loved you and will love you with all
his heart, I can not give you anything or repay you
with anything but my love which is pure and which is
true for you.
God bless you and give you health and happiness
I wish that I had not gone away from you but I am
sure that my homecoming to you will be speedier than
Take good care of yourself. Wishing you happiness
and hoping to see you soon,
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. Jan. 20, 1920
My dear Ange,
Your letter of December 11th was received
yesterday and I was very glad to know of your safe
arrival at your old home, and that you were making
some progress at getting your family affairs into
better shape. I hope you will be able to make such
arrangements for them that you will feel that you
can leave them to take care of themselves without
much anxiety on your part.
I am looking forward anxiously, for the time
when you will return, and the old Murray Hill
apartment is very lonesome without you.
Hoping this letter will find you well and happy,
I am, as ever,
Your Loving Daddy,
In the next month of February Searles, as usual, went to
New York to live at the Murray Hill Hotel for a while. Towards
the end of the month he began to suffer from the prost ate gland
trouble and on March 2, 1920, it was necessary for him to go to a
hospital in New York. Since Angy was still in Greece, and Searles
was all alone in the New York hospital, he sent for Walter Glidden,
a young caretaker at the Pine Lodge estate. After Searles went
under an operation by Doctor McCarthy, a New York urologist,
Angy returned from his trip on April 3rd to find his friend
convalescing at the Murray Hill Hotel. It was his first knowledge
that Searles had been ill. Walter Glidden continued to care for
Searles while Angy began his studies at a New York preparatory
school. Searles continued his hospital treatments until April 20th,
In May he and Glidden returned to Methuen and later, that same
month, Angy received the following letter:
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. May 17, 1920
My dear Ange,
Your letter was received yesterday, and you are
not forgotten. The reason I have not written to you
is that I have been very sick, and am still in bed
under the doctor's care.
I am glad to hear you are employing your time so
well in your studies.
With love from Dad "
"Pine Lodge Methuen, Mass. June 18, 1920
My dear Ange,
I am still in bed under the doctor's care but
think that I am gaining slowly. As soon as I am
able, I will let you know when I can see you.
Mr. Walker says that the Troy Polyteohnical
School for Electrical Engineering is the best place
- 99 -
for you, and you approve of it, and I advise you to
take the preparatory course in New York this summer,
and Mr, Walker will make all the arrangements for you.
Hoping you are well and happy and will keep so,
I am as ever,
P.S. - Let me hear from you as often as you can.
That was the last letter that Angy ever received from Searles
and although he didn't realize it, he would never see him again,
Arthur Walker, Searles* trusted business secretary, arranged for
Angy to go on vacation during that summer's school recess. Was
Walker aware that if he could make it appear to Searles that Angy
was neglecting him in his illness, the old gentleman would be
sufficiently hurt as to be willing to think of the youth as merely
a fickle boy, rather than the close companion that he actually was?
The result was, perhaps, that Searles, resigned to loneliness, ill,
and without Angy's company, signed the will of July 2lj.th, 1920,
leaving the bulk of his fortune to Walker. Never- the -less, it is
certain that Searles proved, by his kind affection for this young man,
to be something more than a stuffy old Victorian full of hypocrisy
and prejudices. He was human after all. His hard, high stone
walls then were not symbolic of his true emotional character.
As his strength.; slowly left him, Searles rarely left
his bed, and when he did, he was carried downstairs by the
human-chair method, only to sit in a wheelchair. Thus, he
spent his last six weeks. Doctor Henry P. Dearborn, of
Lawrence, who attended him during this time, recalls that his
disposition was normal for one as ill as he was. One day he
would be friendly; another day quiet. On the days that he was
talkative he spoke about his trips to England and of English
food. He was, in the doctor's own words, "easy to handle."
During this period he often complained of weakness but felt no
pain. He was unconscious from early morning until £:10 in the
afternoon of August 6th, 1920, when he died.
Services were conducted in the Baronial Hall at Appleside
with the body in a closed casket. Mr. Truette, his favorite
organist from Boston, played a prelude to open the service and
a postlude to close it. Following the service the casket was
removed to a crypt in the beautiful red sandstone chapel nearby,
which Searles had constructed on his estate in 1917. The mourners
followed the casket to the chapel where brief committal services
were held. Among those present at the funeral were Senator
Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., Charles Tenney»s son, Daniel, and Angy.
The legend was at last a legend.
Now, the millions have long since gone elsewhere. Like
Searles, they too are part of a legend as far as his village of
Methuen is concerned. His was an incredible fortune and it left
an incredible legend. Although the walls in Methuen and in
New Hampshire are crumbling in places, for the most part, they,
like the legend, still stand with their castles and mansions,
gardens, and deep, quiet, pools. The weeds and brush are closing
in but they haven't yet obliterated the Searlesian charm.
R. Premraer - 19l]-8